By Daniel Hunter

In October 2012 total Scottish sales declined by 1.3% compared with October 2011, when they had declined by 0.1%, according to the British Retail Consortium.

Like-for-like sales decreased by 2.8% on last October, when they had fallen by 1.5%. Taking account of shop price inflation, October total sales were down 2.8% in real terms.

Total food sales were 2.3% up on October 2011 when they had risen by 0.7%. In real terms, food sales were down 1.6%.

Total non-food sales fell by 4.7% on a year earlier when they had declined by 0.7%. While Clothing and Footwear continued to do well in October, the Other Non-Food category had its worst performance since April.

Sales in Scotland tended to track a similar trend to the UK, i.e. a slowdown in October offsetting the September acceleration, albeit both months' figures were lower in Scotland.

Fiona Moriarty, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: "This really wasn't the result retailers wanted. September's modest sales boost offered some cause for cautious optimism, but continuing concerns about the economy led many customers to batten down the hatches again in October.

"The non-food category was a tale of two halves. While clothing and footwear performed well, it was a different story for other non-food goods such as electricals and items for the home. Household incomes are still being squeezed, and many people will have an eye on saving ahead of Christmas rather than buying big-ticket and discretionary items.

"With consumer confidence at a six-month low, hopes of sales picking up in the run-up to Christmas will hinge on retailers reading the market closely; that means offering customers opportunities for seasonal spending at competitive prices."

David McCorquodale, Head of Retail for KPMG, said: "October's sales figures send a worrying signal about the festive season ahead for retailers in Scotland. Excluding April, which was affected by the timing of Easter, October saw the biggest total sales decline since January and, on a like-for-like basis, since May 2011.

"Food and drink sales failed to track inflation and therefore reflected a decline in volumes. Despite the cold temperatures in October, clothing and footwear sales had good growth in the first week but then faded in the latter half of the month. This shows consumers may have bought into autumn and winter collections but are still too nervous to fill their wardrobes with them.

"The recession may officially be over, but it will take a little longer for consumers to feel they can spend freely again. Retailers are holding less stock than a year ago and may choose to be cautious with pre-Christmas sales in order to protect margins.

"However, the disappointing sales figures for October indicate that winning a share of the Christmas wallet will be just as competitive over the next six weeks as it was last year."

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