Scottish retail sales on the increase

SCOTLAND’S high street sales ­increased during the second quarter of 2013, with the number of goods sold and amounts spent by customers going up, new figures show.

Edinburgh Princes Street. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The overall amount of products sold increased by 0.5 per cent in the second quarter of the year. The volume of sales was 2.4 per cent higher than at the same time 12 months ago, the Scottish Government statistics showed

There was a 0.9 per cent ­increase in the amount spent on goods in the second quarter, meaning sales value is 3.6 per cent higher than last year.

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However, Scotland’s sales growth lagged behind that of the UK as a whole where the volume and value of sales rose by 0.7 per cent and 1.2 per cent respectively.

But over the year, growth in Scotland was higher. The overall amount of UK sales was up 1.7 per cent and the value increased by 3.2 per cent.

Finance secretary John Swinney said the findings showed the retail sector was still having a “tough time” despite the rise in quarterly sales.

Mr Swinney said that while the increase was “positive news”, Scotland’s high street sales were “likely to be limited” until the economy improves further.

The SNP minister insisted that low incomes were preventing higher spending and restricting growth in Scotland, as he claimed Holyrood had “limited powers” over the economy.

Mr Swinney said: “Our retail sector makes up over 5 per cent of Scotland’s economy so it’s good news to see trade picking up for the second quarter in a row. This is an encouraging sign of increasing consumer confidence for 2013. Scotland also shows an ­increase on sales over the year when compared to the rest of the UK.

“This is further positive news for Scotland’s economy following GDP figures which showed a 1.2 per cent growth, and labour market statistics showing Scotland has a higher employment rate, lower unemployment rate and lower inactivity rate than any other nation in the UK.

“However, it remains a tough time for the retail industry. Low income growth is still limiting consumers’ ability to spend so increases in retail sales are likely to be limited until the recovery gains pace.

“We are doing everything we can with our limited powers.”

The increase in sales volumes in Scotland is believed to be partly driven by a rise in sales at department stores due to promotions and consumers buying clearance items. Increased food and clothing prices are thought to explain the rise in the value of high street sales.

Analyst Euan Murray, from Barclays corporate banking, said increased footfall was driving higher sales, particularly in fashion and footwear.

He said: “The summer heatwave is no doubt going to have a huge impact on sales of consumer goods, and we remain confident that this will only further encourage growth.”

However, a Scottish business leader issued a warning. CBI Scotland’s assistant director, David Lonsdale, said: “A return to even modest levels of consumer spending is welcome, however confidence is unlikely to bounce back fully until the recovery becomes entrenched and family finances improve significantly.”