RETAIL sales volumes in Scotland dipped 0.5% in the final three months of the year as the festive shopping frenzy failed to make up for weak demand through the autumn.
The trading on Scotland's high streets also continued to lag behind the wider UK, which posted a 0.4% decline between October and December.
The Scottish Retail Sales Index (RSI) showed there was no growth in sales value figures, without adjusting for inflation, between the third and fourth quarters of 2012.
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In comparison to the final quarter of 2011 volumes were up 0.7% and value by 1.1%.
However both those figures remained poorer than the equivalent year-on-year UK numbers which showed a 1.4% rise in volume and an increase of 2.1% by value.
CBI Scotland's David Lonsdale said the festive season had lost "some of its sparkle" for retailers and added: "The high street is likely to continue to face tough conditions in the months ahead as a result of subdued consumer spending, changes in shopping trends, and higher overheads.
"Government at all levels can assist by keeping a firm lid on those costs under its control which impact on retailers, particularly business rates and regulations such as the proposed carrier bag levy."
Euan Murray, from Barclays Corporate Banking in Scotland, said: "The Christmas shopping spree could not counter the restrained consumer spending we saw through most of the last quarter of 2012.
"Early discounting put pressure on retailers to sell more and those who failed to appropriately marry online with bricks and mortar felt the impact."
Finance Secretary John Swinney said the Scottish Government was doing all it could to help retailers.
Conservative finance spokesman Gavin Brown called for the creation of a town centre regeneration fund and a scrapping of a retail levy on larger stores.
Recent data from the Scottish Retail Consortium suggested a 1.5% year-on-year rise in sales value in December, which matched the UK growth rate for the first time in two years.
Earlier this week British Retail Consortium figures for January showed retail sales running 1.9% ahead year-on-year in spite of inclement weather.
There have been several high profile retail casualties in recent years with Jessops, Blockbuster and HMV among the most recent to suffer when they went into administration in January.
Many high street retailers are battling with expensive long-term rents, falling margins, and competition from supermarkets and online marketplaces. Constrained consumer spending in the wake of prolonged UK Government austerity measures and a double dip recession has also adversely affected the sector.
Yet some in the sector have thrived in the tough conditions, as shown yesterday when John Lewis Partnership reported weekly sales up 20% to almost £175 million.
Within that the Glasgow department store showed 11.9% growth, Aberdeen posted 14.1% and Edinburgh was the star performer with a 17% rise.