THE value of Scottish retail sales in February was down on the same month of last year, amid a squeeze on discretionary spending resulting from economic pressures, a survey shows.

Non-food sales value last month was down by 2.3% on February 2018, according to the survey published today by the Scottish Retail Consortium.

The value of food sales in February was up by 2.6% on the same month of last year but the SRC highlighted the fact that a large element of this increase reflected inflation.

Annual food-price inflation in the UK as a whole is 1.6%, according to the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium and market researcher Nielsen. The BRC and Nielsen put annual non-food price inflation at 0.2%. Overall annual UK shop-price inflation is put at 0.7%.

Overall, the value of Scottish retail sales in February was down by 0.1% on the same month of 2018. This is a significantly weaker outturn than the 0.5% year-on-year rise for the UK as a whole reported last week by the British Retail Consortium.

The SRC flagged a 0.8% year-on-year fall in sales volumes in Scotland last month, taking into account shop-price inflation.

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, head of policy and external affairs at the SRC, said: “It was a dreich February for Scottish retailers as sales fell back with a real-terms fall of 0.8%. That’s below the quarterly and annual trends and shows a pattern of slowing sales as economic pressures cut into consumer spending.”

He added: “Food sales continue to show growth, albeit that’s still as much a consequence of food-price inflation of 1.6%. However, that growth was more than offset by further decline in non-food sales, with discretionary products performing particularly poorly. Even romance associated with St Valentine’s Day wasn’t enough to encourage consumers into stores, with clothing and fragrance sales weak.”

Amid Brexit uncertainty, Mr MacDpnald-Russell flagged SRC concerns that “the drumbeat of negative political news is influencing shoppers’ decisions”.

He said: “Between Brexit uncertainty and news of further taxes and levies in the Scottish Budget accord, consumers are understandably cautious about committing to spending.”

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at accountancy firm KPMG, said: “Retailers will have to continue treading the fine line between generating sales and keeping costs down.”