By Maximilian Clarke

Retail sales across Scotland dipped 0.1% in October, bringing the total to a 1.5% drop since the same month last year, the Scottish Retail Consortium show.

Food sales showed their largest year-on-year decline since June, on a like-for-like basis. Non-food sales also worsened and have been down on a year ago every month but one so far this year. Clothing, footwear, furniture and homewares all suffered. Big-ticket and discretionary purchases were largely deal-driven, hit by fragile consumer confidence.

As in the UK, both like-for-like and total sales were worse than in September. Consumer confidence weakened more in Scotland than in the UK and remains below that in the UK.

"Retailers are still hoping for some festive magic but these gloomy figures are not a good start to the Christmas build-up,” commented Ian Shearer, Scottish Retail Consortium Director. “Non-food retailing continues to struggle as customers cut back on things they don't need immediately, but food sales have been hit too. In October total food sales grew at their slowest rate since April 2004, showing people are reducing spending across the board.

"And life is tougher for retailers in Scotland because households here are generally more concerned about personal finances, jobs and cuts. Scottish consumer confidence is lower and falling faster than elsewhere and retail sales have now performed worse than the rest of the UK for most of this year.

"These figures should tell the Scottish Government that retailers cannot be regarded as an invulnerable cash cow. It should not add the 5.6 per cent inflation increase to business rates bills next April. No-one is seeing sales or profits rise on that scale. And it cannot expect to impose a supermarket tax without effect, when it would increase the rates of affected stores by a further 22 per cent."

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