Rebound in UK spending at odds with Scottish figures

The rise in UK sales contrasted with a decline in Scotland last month. Picture: Scott Barbour/Getty Images
The rise in UK sales contrasted with a decline in Scotland last month. Picture: Scott Barbour/Getty Images
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New figures have flagged contrasting fortunes for retailers on either side of the Border.

Official data released yesterday revealed that UK sales rebounded strongly last month as shoppers put uncertainty about the upcoming EU referendum aside to go on a spending spree.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said retail sales increased by 1.3 per cent compared with March, and were 4.3 per cent higher than a year earlier. Disappointing figures for March were revised and were not as bad as previously feared.

The statistics come just days after the latest sales monitor from the Scottish Retail Consortium and KPMG highlighted a “disappointing” month in April as sales fell by 3.2 per cent north of the Border. It followed an even sharper fall in footfall numbers for last month that was attributed, in part, to uncertainty in the run-up to the 23 June vote.

READ MORE: ‘Disappointing’ April for retailers as sales fall 3.2%

Yesterday’s positive ONS figures are partly down to an effort by clothing retailers to mitigate unseasonably warm weather with discounts, and department stores also saw a 1.9 per cent increase in sales.

The ONS said average store prices, including petrol stations, fell by 2.8 per cent in April. The amount spent across the retail industry increased by 1.2 per cent, year-on-year, and by 1 per cent compared with March this year.

The value of online sales, meanwhile, increased by 9.3 per cent on a year ago and 1.7 per cent compared with March.

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “After the disappointing decline in March, the strong retail sales recovery in April supports our view that in spite of major headwinds the UK economy continues to grow, albeit at a slowing pace.

“However, the contrast between buoyant retail sales and the problems facing other sectors such as manufacturing highlights the unbalanced nature of Britain’s recovery.”

READ MORE: Brexit uncertainty blamed for declining Scots footfall

The upturn is at odds with the latest GfK consumer confidence survey, which suggested consumers are becoming less optimistic about spending over the next year, perhaps in response to the EU referendum.