By Daniel Hunter

In November 2012 total Scottish sales declined by 1.2% compared with November 2011, when they had declined by 1.3%.

Like-for-like sales decreased by 2.2% on last November, when they had fallen by 2.1%. Taking account of shop price inflation, November total sales were down 2.7% in real terms.

Total food sales were 2.6% up on November 2011 when they had risen by 0.9%. In real terms, food sales were down 2.0%, a worsening from October.

Total non-food sales fell by 4.7% on a year earlier when they had declined by 3.3%. In real terms, non-food sales were down 4.4%, a slight improvement from October.

The improvement from October to November was more marked in the UK as a whole than in Scotland, which did not benefit from the timing of half-term as the rest of the UK.

Fiona Moriarty, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: "These underwhelming figures, which scarcely improve on October, mark the closing stages of what has been a challenging year for retailers in Scotland. Consumer confidence is stronger but this has yet to kickstart sales growth. People are waiting for attractive promotions and discounts before they make a purchase and holding back on spending too much too soon so that they can be sure of covering the cost of Christmas.

"The wet and cold weather also deterred Scottish shoppers in November. It's one of the main factors which resulted in clothing and footwear posting its worst performance since January, excluding April, which was hit by this year's earlier Easter.

"While there's not much cause for cheer in November's figures, retailers have been reporting increased sales in recent weeks, suggesting that the public mood is shifting as the festive season approaches. With Christmas falling on a Tuesday this year, many may sense that having a full shopping weekend two days before Christmas gives them more time to round off their buying. Retailers will be hoping that, in the end, these factors translate into a merry Christmas."

David McCorquodale, Head of Retail for KPMG, said: "There is little festive cheer in the November figures this year — food sales reflect a real terms decline when food inflation is taken into account and non-food sales declined by around five per cent. These figures are against very weak comparatives last year when November sales in Scotland showed the worst sales fall since 1999.

"The Chancellor's Autumn Statement last week warned of little growth in the year ahead and it will take a while for consumers to feel secure enough to open their wallets and spend again. Rather than spread the cost of Christmas, it appears the consumer is waiting for last minute promotions before committing to buy. The danger is that many may simply choose to reduce the number of presents they give this Christmas rather than incur further expense.

"For retailers, the next two weeks are critical for margins and cash flows and they will not want to be left at the end of the year holding unwanted stock. To discount, or not to discount before Christmas, is the real question."

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