Scottish stores turn in ‘decent’ sales last month

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Retail experts today hailed a modest rise in high street sales last month as a “decent showing” given the bad weather, though the gain was below the rate of inflation.

Publishing its latest retail sales monitor, the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) said like-for-like sales, which strip out store openings and expansions, edged up 0.9 per cent in March, compared with a year earlier. However, shop price inflation over the period was 1.4 per cent.

When additional selling space is factored in, total sales were up a “respectable” 1.8 per cent on the same month last year.

While the chilly conditions were blamed for contributing to a 1.4 per cent slide in total non-food sales, retail leaders said the weather increased shoppers’ appetite for “winter warmers”, resulting in a 5.2 per cent hike in food sales.

But the Easter weekend falling in March this year “flatters” the figures because of the boost to retailers provided by the bank holiday.

SRC director Fiona Moriarty said: “All in all, this is a decent showing which rounds off the best quarter for Scottish sales since March 2011. While Scottish sales growth still lags behind the UK as a whole, this puts both the like-for-like and total three-month average firmly back into positive territory after a fairly subdued February.”

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, which helps compile the report, said: “Total sales growth of 1.8 per cent will be welcomed by Scottish retailers but the trend is impacted by an early Easter and extended winter weather.”

SCOTT REID