Scottish retail sales figures show improvement

Retailers have reported a pick-up in sales last month despite many households still feeling the squeeze.

Sales increased 2.1% compared with October last year, with food purchases leading the rise.

The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) said the growth is reassuring after a September sales increase of 1.8% and a summer sales boost of 4% and 3.5% in July and August respectively.

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But October figures show like-for-like sales, which leave out factors such as new store openings, were down 0.5% on the previous year.

SRC director Fiona Moriarty said: “These figures show that there’s all to play for as Christmas approaches. It’s reassuring to see a partial pick-up in growth after a disappointing slowdown in the previous month, but it’s clear that many households are still feeling the squeeze and keen to keep some money aside for seasonal spending closer to December.

“Overall this is an acceptable result which tallies with the relatively stable consumer confidence levels of the last few months. Retailers will be hoping that this very tentative boost gains some momentum as many of us start thinking about making some headway on our Christmas lists.”

Total food sales were 3% up on October last year as shoppers began stocking up on more wintry fare.

Non-food sales increased by 1.3% with the relatively mild start to the month leading to subdued demand for warmer clothing and footwear.

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said: “Confidence levels have perhaps dipped a little from the warm summer months and consumers have not got carried away with reported sentiment. They have signalled clearly that it is cash they spend rather than confidence.

“Food retailers fared best with total sales up by 3%, in line with the three-month average. This is higher than the UK average, showing that Scottish consumers are reacting better to campaigns run by the grocers than those in England and Wales.

“Fashion sales struggled in the warmer weather as shoppers are tending to buy winter woollies when they’re needed rather than when they become available.

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“With little more than six weeks until Christmas, retailers’ festive campaigns are now in full swing. They need the weather to cool and confidence to burgeon to encourage shoppers to spend and give Christmas 2013 that much-needed feelgood factor.

“I remain cautiously optimistic and feel the level of discounting may be less than in previous seasons. Time will tell if the retailer will hold firm for margin or give way with pre-Christmas bargains.”