By Daniel Hunter

In March 2013 total Scottish sales increased by 1.8% compared with March 2012, when they had increased by 1.8%. Like-for-like sales increased by 0.9% on last March, when they had increased by 0.9%. Taking account of shop price inflation at 1.4%, March total sales were up 0.3% in real terms.

Total food sales were 5.2% up on March 2012, when they had risen by 4.2%. This matched January's growth, which had been the strongest since April 2011.

Total non-food sales declined by 1.4% on a year earlier when they had decreased by 0.4%. The prolonged cold hit Clothing and Footwear, which recorded its worst performance since April 2012.

While Scottish growth remained below that of the UK, the 3-month average growth for Scotland continued to improve with the strongest since April 2011.

Fiona Moriarty, Director General of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: "All in all, this is a decent showing which rounds off the best quarter for Scottish sales since March 2011. While Scottish sales growth still lags behind the UK as a whole, this puts both the like-for-like and total three-month average firmly back into positive territory after a fairly subdued February.

"The chilly conditions spelled bad news for fashion retailers, putting demand for the new season clothing and footwear ranges on ice for much of the month and resulting in a decline for the category. But food fared better, as the continuing cold fuelled demand for ‘winter warmers' and family and friends got together to celebrate Easter.

"This is a respectable result considering the impact of the coldest March for fifty years. But we need to bear in mind that the Easter weekend flatters the figures, as it fell in March this year but April in 2012. With no Bank Holiday boost on offer this April, Scottish retailers will be hoping that growth doesn't go in the other direction after such a promising start to the year."

David McCorquodale, Head of Retail, KPMG, said: "Total sales growth of 1.8 per cent will be welcomed by Scottish retailers but the trend is impacted by an early Easter and extended winter weather.

"Total food sales growth of 5.2 per cent is particularly strong as a result of Easter falling in March this year as opposed to April in 2012, meaning we will need to look at the combined figures for March and April to consider a trend.

"However the strong performance of food masks a 1.9 per cent drop in like-for-like non-food sales. Clothing and footwear — which sold well in last year's warmer weather — was adversely hit by the wintry weather continuing into Spring. Consumers remained wrapped up rather than being inspired to buy summer frocks, shorts and sandals.

"The first quarter gave the strongest start to a year since 2011 and retailers will now be hoping their fortunes improve as the weather heats up. The coming months will give us a far greater insight into the wider market resilience but after a good start to 2013 there will be hope of more to come."

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