By Daniel Hunter
According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) in September 2012 total Scottish sales rose by 1.0% compared with September 2011, which saw growth of 0.8%.
Like-for-like sales decreased by 0.8% on last September, when they had fallen by 0.6%. After accounting for inflation, September total sales were flat in real terms.
Given the relatively strong comparable, this represents the best growth over a 24 month period since the beginning of the year.
Total food sales were 3.4% up on September 2011 when they had risen by 1.5%. In real terms, food sales were up 0.3%, the best performance since April 2011.
Total non-food sales declined by 1.2% on a year earlier, when they had risen by 0.2%. While Clothing and Footwear was the best performing category in September, Other Non-Food continued to struggle.
The pick-up experienced by Scotland in September was of the same magnitude as the UK but the Scottish level of growth remained 2.4 percentage points below the UK.
Fiona Moriarty, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: "These figures offer faint glimmers of hope after a disappointing summer for sales and two consecutive months of year-on-year falls. The situation in Scotland mirrors a slightly improving trend in the UK as a whole.
"Clothing and footwear performed well in September, thanks in part to demand for warmer clothing when sunshine gave way to more autumnal conditions.
"However, it was a different story in other non-food categories, suggesting that many customers are still feeling the squeeze and postponing purchases, particularly of big-ticket items for the home. And overall, sales growth in Scotland has now been below the whole-UK for 18 months in a row.
"Times remain tough for customers, so any modest revival in sales should be seen within a wider context of continual pressures on household incomes. Retailers will be hoping that this very tentative boost builds as we head towards the crucial Christmas season, rather than fading amid new worries about rising household bills."
David McCorquodale, Head of Retail in Scotland, KPMG, said: "With total sales up by 1%, September's figures appear to bring much needed relief for Scottish retailers. However, closer examination shows the rise was mainly in the food sector where sales soared by 3.4% as budget conscious consumers tried to spread the cost of Christmas by stocking up on confectionery and other items.
"Non-food sales declined on a like-for-like and total basis due to a continued lack of consumer confidence. As a silver lining, there was a slight recovery in clothing and footwear as the arrival of autumn/winter fashions heralded the end of a cold, wet summer.
"With the main UK rents paid for the last quarter before Christmas and most seasonal orders now made, the bets for the rest of the year have been placed. Retailers will now be hoping that the consumer finds some confidence for 2013 to drive sales for the next three months. If that doesn't happen there's a real risk that the retailers will be forced to discount their seasonal margins away."
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