YEAR-on-year growth in the value of Scottish retail sales slowed sharply in February, with volumes lower when inflation is taken into account, industry figures reveal.
The figures, published by the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), today show that the value of retail sales north of the Border in February was up just 0.7% on the same month of last year. This represents a sharp deceleration from year-on-year growth of 2.1% in January, and is way adrift of the annual increase in retail sales value of 4.4% recorded in the UK as a whole by the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
The BRC has said annual UK shop-price inflation rose from 0.6% in January to 1.1% in February. According to the SRC, based on this inflation figure and the 0.7% year-on-year rise in value, the volume of retail sales in Scotland in February was down a rounded 0.3% on a year earlier.
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However, the SRC chose to focus on the fact that February was the third consecutive month in which the value of Scottish retail sales showed a year-on-year rise.
This three-month run followed year-on-year falls in the value of Scottish retail sales in October and November.
David Martin, SRC head of policy, highlighted the fact that year-on-year growth in Scottish retail sales value had averaged 1.4% over the latest three months.
He pointed out that this was the best such three-month average annual increase in sales value for nearly two years.
However, it was only half of the average year-on-year growth in UK retail sales value of 2.8% over the latest three months.
Referring to the latest Scottish sales figures, Mr Martin said: "This is an encouraging result with February being the third consecutive month of (year-on-year) Scottish sales growth and the best three-month average in nearly two years."
Noting the year-on-year fall in Scottish sales in real terms in February, he said: "Total sales didn't measure up well against those in January and in real terms were down 0.3%. This reminds us the economy and trading environment remains fragile."
The SRC figures show that the value of non-food sales in Scotland in February, the more discretionary element of consumer spending, was down 0.5% on the same month of last year.
This was a particularly weak showing, given non-food sales in February 2012 had been down 4.4% on a year earlier.
The value of food sales last month in Scotland was up 2% on a year earlier. However, the BRC has put annual food price inflation at 3.5% in February, so this implies a sharp year-on-year fall in volumes in this category north of the Border last month.
David McCorquodale, head of accountancy firm and survey sponsor KPMG's UK retail practice, said: "The tendency for Scottish schools to take shorter half-term breaks than their English and Welsh cousins meant that non-food sales didn't quite feel the uplift seen in the south, despite being against soft comparables last year. However, the decline was not as steep as it's been for some time and will thus be viewed with some relief."