By Daniel Hunter

In January 2013 total Scottish sales increased by 2.1% compared with January 2012, when they had declined by 1.5%. Like-for-like sales increased by 1.1% on last January, when they had declined by 2.6%. Taking account of shop price inflation at 0.6%, January total sales were up 1.5% in real terms.

On both measures, this represented the best growth in 21 months, an upturn similar to the one experienced in the UK.

Total food sales were 5.2% up on January 2012, when they had risen by 2.8%.This was the strongest growth since April 2011. In real terms, food sales were up 1.2%.

Total non-food sales declined by 0.7% on a year earlier when they had decreased by 5.5%.

Fiona Moriarty, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: "After battling consistently tough conditions through most of 2012, this is good news for Scottish retailers.

"The healthier pace of sales that finally developed in December, gathered momentum in January to produce the strongest year-on-year growth since April 2011.

"The fact that New Year's Eve was included in the survey period this year but not last year boosted January's food and drink results. Clothing and footwear was the strongest non-food category thanks to winter weather getting people buying boots and stimulating bargain hunting for seasonal clothing. The comparison with January 2012, when sales growth was negative, also helped the overall figures. But, even so, this is an encouraging start to what's still likely to be a challenging 2013. The key question now is: is this just a blip or dare we hope it signals the start of a lasting revival for customers and retailers."

David McCorquodale, Head of Retail, KPMG, said: "January's sales figures are the best we have seen in close to two years. With like-for-like sales up 1.1 per cent last month, they built encouragingly on the modest progress made in December.

"Total food and drink sales were up 5.2 per cent, with comfort food selling strongly around the New Year, while detox diets provided a boost for fruit and veg sales. Meanwhile Scotch whisky experienced strong demand around Burns night, and homewares, which was the worst affected area last year, also saw increased levels of demand.

"It's not surprising that non-food sales remained sluggish, given that January is traditionally the month where Christmas debts are paid off. However, retailers generally will look back on successful seasonal campaigns, be relieved that consumers responded well to promotional activity and be glad that they went into the winter with lower stocks.

"It is still far too early to read too much into the figures, but this is a welcome and positive start of 2013."

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