Total retail sales in Scotland rose 1.6 per cent year-on-year in February but sales fell 1.3 per cent on a like-for-like (LFL) basis due to poor non-food trade, according to data released today.
Non-food sales dropped 2.7 LFL during the month and 0.5 per cent in total compared to last year, the first time this figure has declined since October.
Figures from the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) and KPMG showed spending drop across all non-food sectors (clothing, footwear, furniture, homewares & DIY and health & beauty), as the promotional boost of January fading into the distance.
“Trading conditions are getting steadily tougher,” said Fiona Moriarty, Director of the SRC.
“This is the weakest Scottish sales growth since last October and even poorer than it looks when the inflationary impact of the VAT rise is taken into account.
“Worsening sales of non-food goods were to blame. Expensive items were hardest hit. With fears about public spending cuts and future finances more widespread, Scottish customers are less confident than those in other parts of the UK and becoming more gloomy.”
December and January are now the only months since April 2010 when LFL sales in Scotland have not been negative, and LFL sales for the whole of the UK last month declined by just 0.4 per cent in comparison.
Total food sales were 3.8 per cent higher in February than the same month last year but just 0.2 per cent up LFL, and consumer confidence stayed below that of the rest of Britain.
David McCorquodale, Head of Retail in Scotland for KPMG, commented: “We can see the full, post-Christmas, post-sales, post-VAT rise, effect in the February figures, with like-for-like sales in Scotland down 1.3 per cent on a set of relatively soft comparables from the previous year.
“For several months now we have seen a trend of rising food sales, boosted in the main by inflation, and of non-food sales declining as families buy necessities and bargains rather than discretionary-spend items.
“Footfall on the high street has been disappointing and the lack of consumer confidence is there for all to see. In February, food sales rose by only 0.2 per cent on a like-for-like basis which is likely to reflect lower volumes offset by higher prices.”
Scottish retailers will be bracing themselves for continuingly weak consumer spending, as the UK government’s public sector cuts, disproportionately affecting north of the border, take full affect this spring.