THE value of Scottish retail sales in October was lower than in the same month of 2017, as year-on-year growth in the grocery sector slowed and the non-food category remained weak, writes Ian McConnell.

Figures published today by the Scottish Retail Consortium show that sales value in October was down by 0.2% on the same month of last year. This was the first year-on-year decline in Scottish retail sales value since April. The SRC had recorded 0.9% year-on-year growth in retail sales value in September.

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British Retail Consortium figures published last week showed sales value in the UK as a whole in October was up by 1.3% on the same month of last year.

The value of food sales in Scotland in October was up by 2.3% on the same month of last year. The value of food sales north of the Border had in September shown year-on-year growth of 3.7%.

Non-food sales value in Scotland in October was down by 2.1% on the same month of 2017, having been down 1.4% year-on-year in September.

SRC director David Lonsdale said: “After a positive run over the previous five months, Scottish retail sales ran out of puff in October. The growth in grocery eased back markedly, with non-food sales lethargic once again."

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He added: "Retailers will be hoping this dampening of consumer demand reflects only a temporary pause for breath, perhaps in anticipation of sharper deals becoming available in the Black Friday sales later this month.”

Paul Martin, head of retail in Scotland at accountancy firm KPMG, said: "Food sales, which have provided a welcome relief for many retailers, saw its lowest growth since February 2017, factoring in Easter distortions.

“All eyes are on Black Friday’s heavy discounting, with savvy shoppers hesitant to part with more cash than necessary in the build-up to the festive period. That being said, shoppers invested in warmer clothing towards the end of the month as temperatures dropped."

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He added: "Some retailers have already been forced to bring forward planned promotional activity and flash sales to encourage spending, but it doesn’t appear to have had the desired effect. As we approach the most important time of the year for retailers, some tough decisions will need to be made between volume of sales and profit."