Ian McConnell

SCOTTISH retail sales value showed a year-on-year rise in October for the first time since April, when trading was boosted by Easter, but “exceptional discounting” played a key part in the increase, industry figures show.

The year-on-year rate of decline of non-food sales, which tend to reflect the more discretionary elements of consumer spending, slowed sharply from 5.4 per cent in September to 0.2% last month in value terms.

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Year-on-year growth in food sales value edged up from 2.3% in September to 2.5% last month.

Total Scottish retail sales value in October was up by 1% on the same month of last year. In September, it had been down by 1.9% on a year earlier. The year-on-year rise in retail sales value in October was greater than the corresponding 0.6% rise in the UK as a whole, reported in figures last week from the British Retail Consortium.

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SRC director David Lonsdale said: “This is a sprightly set of results for October, highlighting a more broadly based pick-up in demand across retail sub-sectors. This was buoyed by exceptional discounting as retailers used keen prices and promotions to…drive footfall and demand, particularly on winter coats and heavier footwear. It also points to the volatility of retail market conditions at the moment, following a slew of poor months.”

He declared that the non-food category had overall recorded its strongest performance for five years.

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Mr Lonsdale added: “While fashion led the way, beds, home textiles and kitchenware did well, as did sales of mobile phones and televisions. Grocery items fared well too. That said, if customers continue to hold out for steep discounts that will put severe pressure on retailers’ already-thin profit margins.”

He observed the October retail sales figures for Scotland “strike a more optimistic note at the start of the crucial golden quarter” trading period leading up to Christmas.

However, Mr Lonsdale added: “A big question remains over the future direction of consumer spending. The coming weeks and months will be dominated by the general election, Brexit and UK and Scottish budgets.”