SCOTTISH retail sales value in September was down sharply on a year earlier, with the non-food category struggling as shoppers focused on necessities amid Brexit-fuelled uncertainty, industry figures show.

The Scottish Retail Consortium said the value of retail sales north of the Border last month was down by 1.9 per cent on September 2018. This was the fifth straight month in which a year-on-year fall in Scottish retail sales value has been recorded. The year-on-year drop in retail sales value in Scotland in September was steeper than the still-sharp 1.3% fall in the UK as a whole.

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Food sales value in September was up by 2.3% on a year earlier. However, non-food sales, which tend to represent the more discretionary elements of consumer spending, were down by 5.4% on September 2018 by value.

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, SRC head of policy and external affairs, said: “September [provided] little relief for retailers as shoppers shunned high streets to focus on necessities. Overall retail sales fell by 1.9% on a total basis, the fifth successive month of shrinking sales.”

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He cited weak consumer demand for electronics, homeware and beauty products.

Mr MacDonald-Russell observed clothing sales had been hampered by shoppers choosing summer discounts over autumn ranges because of warm weather. And he flagged the impact of uncertainty on consumers.

He said: “It’s undisputable consumers are holding back from serious spending commitments and it’s difficult not to conclude the impasse over the UK’s exit from the EU is a reason nervous shoppers are keeping their wallets and purses firmly closed.

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“To prevent life on the high street becoming even harder, an urgent Brexit resolution is needed ahead of the vital Christmas trading period.”

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at BRC survey sponsor and accountancy firm KPMG, said: “Once again, food sales have helped to slow the rate of decline, but the trend in non-food categories is one of long-term decline.”

Mr Martin said: “There’s clear evidence that uncertainty – both politically and economically – is impacting consumer confidence with shoppers choosing to slim down unnecessary purchases and focus on the essentials.

“The next few months could be make-or-break for many of Scotland’s most high-profile brands. A clear strategy will be essential, focusing on cost-reduction, sales-maximisation and supply-chain efficiencies.”