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Herald view

A QUICK walk along the high street leaves no room for doubt about the challenges retailers face as they enter the key trading period ahead of Christmas.

As well as the number of empty premises, the offers displayed in shop windows underline the length to which retailers are having to go to persuade hard-pressed shoppers to part with their cash.

And there is little sign of euphoria among most shoppers, who continue to struggle with falling real incomes or worse.

It has been a long, hard slog for many and, while there have been short periods in which consumers have appeared to loosen the purse strings, these spells have been followed by signs of renewed caution as people take stock of the household finances.

The latest monitor from the Scottish Retail Consortium, published today, signals consumers were in cautious form in November.

Even the anticipated boost to clothing and footwear sales, as the weather turned colder, failed to prevent year-on-year growth in the value of Scottish retail sales slowing from 2.1% in October to 1.6% in November. And the comparative figure for sales in November 2012 was weak.

People are right to be relieved about the recent run of less dismal UK economic data.

However, there is a long way between relief and confidence.

The gulf between these two emotions is likely to remain evident on the high street for some time to come, with the UK Government's continuing austerity programme likely to ensure a continuing absence of euphoria.

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