By Daniel Hunter

In February 2013 total Scottish sales increased by 0.7% compared with February 2012, when they had declined by 0.6%, according to the Scottish Retail Consortium.

Like-for-like sales decreased by 0.1% on last February, when they had declined by 1.7%. Taking account of shop price inflation at 1.1%, February total sales were down 0.3% in real terms.

Total food sales were 2.0% up on February 2012, when they had risen by 3.4%. This was the weakest growth since July, excluding Christmas.

Total non-food sales declined by 0.5% on a year earlier when they had decreased by 4.4%. This was the strongest performance since March, excluding Christmas.

While the gap with the UK widened in February, the 3-month average for Scotland is the strongest since April 2011.

David Martin, Head of Policy, Scottish Retail Consortium, said: "This is an encouraging result with February being the third consecutive month of Scottish sales growth and the best three-month average in nearly two years. However, total sales didn't measure up well against those in January and in real terms were down 0.3%. This reminds us that the economy and trading environment remains fragile.

"Non-food sales continued to rebound in February, showing the strongest performance since March 2012 if pre-Christmas trading is excluded. Electricals drove much of this growth but furniture and flooring also did well.

"The gap between Scottish sales growth and that for the UK as a whole widened again in February returning to what has been the norm for around two years. All in all, however, this is a satisfactory showing and should be welcomed with cautious optimism."

David McCorquodale, Head of Retail, KPMG, said: "February's performance delivered a third consecutive month of growth for the Scottish retail sector, which will give retailers reasons to feel fairly upbeat as we head into Spring.

"The tendency for Scottish schools to take shorter half term breaks than their English and Welsh cousins meant that non-food sales didn't quite feel the uplift seen in the South, despite being against soft comparables last year. However, the decline was not as steep as it's been for some time and will thus be viewed with some relief.

"Retailers will now be hoping for an even stronger March, buoyed by Mother's Day and Easter falling in the same month. The hope is that next week's budget will deliver a fillip to stimulate consumer spending in the long term, and provide a much needed boost to the sector."