GROWTH in retail sales volumes was stronger in Scotland than in Great Britain as a whole in the fourth quarter of last year, official figures have revealed.
The seasonally adjusted data, published yesterday by the Scottish Government, showed that the volume of retail sales north of the Border rose by 1.1% quarter-on-quarter in the final three months of 2013. This was ahead of a 0.8% quarter-on-quarter rise in Great Britain as a whole.
The volume of retail sales in Scotland in the fourth quarter of 2013 was up by 4% on the same period of 2012. This was ahead of year-on-year growth of 3.7% in retail sales volumes in the fourth quarter in Great Britain.
Euan Murray, relationship director in Barclays' corporate banking division in Scotland, said: "(The) figures will be welcomed by retailers and reflect the general rise in confidence throughout the rest of the UK. With unemployment in Scotland falling to its lowest level for almost five years for the three-month period to November, we are seeing an increase in consumer spending."
Unemployment in Scotland, on the International Labour Organisation measure, totalled 176,000 in the period from September to November 2013, down by 25,000 on the previous three months, according to data published by the Office for National Statistics last week. The ILO unemployment rate in Scotland in the September to November period was 6.4%, below the 7.1% UK average.
Contemplating recent figures relating to the festive trading performance of food retailers, Mr Murray said: "December did prove to be a mixed bag for the sector, with value food retailers doing better than their high-end counterparts."
Mr Murray was relatively optimistic about the prospects for the Scottish retail sector this year.
He said: "Looking ahead to 2014, we expect to see low levels of sustained growth and cautious optimism from retailers."
In terms of value, as opposed to the volume measure which adjusts for inflation, retail sales in Scotland rose by 0.9% quarter-on-quarter in the final three months of last year. The value of Scottish retail sales in the fourth quarter of 2013 was up by 4.6% on the same period of 2012.
Retail sales value in Great Britain as a whole was up by 1% quarter-on-quarter in the final three months of 2013. The value of sales in Great Britain was, in the fourth quarter of 2013, up by 4.9% on the same period of the previous year.
Monthly figures from the British Retail Consortium and Scottish Retail Consortium have shown that year-on-year growth in retail sales value has, in recent times, been weaker north of the Border than in the rest of the UK.
Figures published earlier this month by the Scottish Retail Consortium showed that the value of retail sales north of the Border in the key trading month of December was down 1.1% on a year earlier, a significantly weaker showing than that in the UK as a whole.
The year-on-year movement in Scottish retail sales value in December was the worst since November 2012, excluding distortions last April relating to the timing of Easter. The Scottish Retail Consortium described this as a "small setback".
According to figures from the British Retail Consortium, the value of UK retail sales in December was up 1.8% on the same month of 2012.