RETAIL sales volumes in Scotland rose by just 0.1% quarter-on-quarter in the opening three months of this year, in contrast to a 0.7% jump in Great Britain as a whole, official figures have shown.
The data, published yesterday by the Scottish Government, also showed retail sales volumes in the opening three months of 2014 were up 2.4% on the same period of last year. In Great Britain as a whole, retail sales volumes in the first quarter were up 4.2% on the same period of 2013.
This finding that the retail sector has been weaker north of the Border chimes with the results of industry surveys.
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The Scottish Retail Consortium's monthly sales monitor has consistently signalled a poorer picture north of the Border than in the UK as a whole. Figures published last month by the SRC showed the value of retail sales in Scotland in March was down 2.5% on the same month of 2013, a much steeper drop than that recorded for the UK as a whole.
The SRC cited the dampening impact of Easter falling in April on the year-on-year sales comparison for March. Most of the Easter weekend fell in March last year.
However, in the UK as a whole, the value of retail sales in March was down just 0.3% year-on-year, in spite of the Easter timing effect, according to figures published by the British Retail Consortium.
The SRC figures show that, over the first quarter, the value of Scottish retail sales was up 0.4% on the same period of last year.
David Lonsdale, director of the SRC, said of yesterday's Scottish Government figures: "The modest upwards trend in retail sales witnessed over the past 12 months mirrors the findings of our own Scottish survey.
"Going forward, retailers will be buoyed by recent news that household income has finally caught up with inflation for the first time in nearly six years. The crucial factor is whether family finances continue to improve and also translate into higher levels of confidence and more transactions."
Euan Murray, relationship director at Barclays' corporate banking division in Scotland, said: "Scottish retailers will welcome (the) positive year-on-year figures, in light of recent surveys reporting a dip in footfall and sales trends inMarch.
"On the high street and online, Valentine's Day and Mother's Day played a role in encouraging shoppers to spend on small gifts. With the changing of the seasons and the new summer fashion ranges now in, retailers will be expecting the brighter weather to continue to entice shoppers."
He added: "With other economic indicators showing positive trends and unemployment in Scotland continuing to fall, we believe that there is room for steady growth into the second quarter."
Experts, including Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, have highlighted the unbalanced nature of the UK recovery and the extent to which it has been dependent on spending by debt-laden consumers who have suffered a long period of decline in real incomes.
Concerns have also been raised by some economists about the impact of the coalition government's policies to fuel the housing market. This housing market revival has been cited as a factor which has boosted retail sales in recent times.