YEAR-on-year growth in Scottish retail sales value in April was only one-third of that in the UK as a whole, as the bounce from a later Easter proved weaker than hoped north of the Border, industry figures reveal.
The figures, published today by the Scottish Retail Consortium, show that the value of retail sales in Scotland last month was up only 1.9 per cent on April 2013.
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A survey published last week by the British Retail Consortium showed that the value of UK retail sales in April was up 5.7 per cent on the same month of last year.
David McCorquodale, the Edinburgh-based head of accountancy firm and SRC and BRC survey sponsor KPMG's UK retail sector practice, said: "April's bounce back due to a late Easter was more muted than hoped for in Scotland, reminding us how hard retailers are working to drive sales growth in this slowly-recovering economy."
The value of retail sales in Scotland in March had been down 2.5 per cent on the same month of last year. This poor showing in March reflected the fact that Easter fell later this year than in 2013.
In February, the Scottish retail sales value was down one per cent on the same month of last year.
The value of retail sales in Scotland during the three months to April was down 0.7 per cent on the same period of last year.
This is in stark contrast to a 1.9 per cent year-on-year rise in the value of retail sales in the UK as a whole during the three months to April.
Food sales value in Scotland in the three months to April was down 1.4 per cent on the same period of last year. Non-food sales in Scotland showed a year-on-year drop of 0.1 per cent in the February to April period.
Mr McCorquodale declared that the weak food sales performance reflected the "harsh realities" of the grocery sector.
He highlighted ongoing price cuts in this sector to win over consumers, and voiced concerns over the knock-on impact of this discounting.
Mr McCorquodale said: "Targeted discounting may be great for consumers, but I fear it will have longer-term consequences on suppliers."
Comparing the Scottish retail sales figures for the three months to April with the same period of last year, he added: "Other non-food sales for the quarter have been largely flat in Scotland, save for clothing and footwear categories which have been spurred on by better weather and also, perhaps, from savings in food being diverted to the wardrobe."
The value of food sales in Scotland in April was up 1.1 per cent on the same month of last year. Taking into account the BRC figure for annual food price inflation, this equated to year-on-year growth of just 0.3 per cent in volume terms in spite of the traditional Easter boost to demand.
Non-food sales in Scotland in April showed a 2.6 per cent year-on-year rise in value terms. They were up about 5 per cent in volume terms, taking into account the BRC's figure for annual non-food price deflation in April.
SRC director David Lonsdale focused on the positives in the April sales figures, in particular the strength of sales of clothing and footwear. The strong performance of this category was driven by demand for children's clothing.
Mr Lonsdale also cited strength of sales of bigger ticket items such as furniture, and gardening and do-it-yourself products.
He said: "What is most heartening is that a broader range of indicators crucial to the health of Scotland's retail industry have begun pointing in a more positive direction. Retail sales and footfall are both up, and the number of empty retail properties has fallen."