By Daniel Hunter

In October 2013 total Scottish sales increased by 2.1% compared with October 2012, when they had decreased by 1.3%. Like-for-like sales decreased by 0.5% on last October, when they had decreased by 2.8%. Taking account of shop price deflation at -0.5%, October total sales were up 2.5% in real terms.

October sales picked up slightly from September but total growth remained below the three-month average of 2.4%.

Total food sales were 3.0% up on October 2012, when they had increased 2.3%. Total non-food sales increased by 1.3% on a year earlier when they had decreased by 4.7%.

October total sales growth was lower in Scotland than in the UK but the three-month averages remained close.

Fiona Moriarty, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: "These figures show that there's all to play for as Christmas approaches. It's reassuring to see a partial pick-up in growth after a disappointing slowdown in the previous month, but it's clear that many households are still feeling the squeeze and keen to keep some money aside for seasonal spending closer to December.

"Food put in a decent performance in October, with indications that customers responded well to more wintry fare as the nights started to draw in. In contrast, non-food faltered, mainly due to subdued demand for warmer clothing and footwear until more autumnal conditions set in later in the month.

"Overall this is an acceptable result which tallies with the relatively stable consumer confidence levels of the last few months. Retailers will be hoping that this very tentative boost gains some momentum as many of us start thinking about making some headway on our Christmas lists."

David McCorquodale, Head of Retail, KPMG, said: "October was a cautious month on the Scottish high streets with honours even between the consumer and the retailer. Confidence levels have perhaps dipped a little from the warm summer months and consumers have not got carried away with reported sentiment. They have signalled clearly that it is cash they spend rather than confidence.

"Food retailers fared best with total sales up by 3 per cent, in line with the three month average. This is higher than the UK average, showing that Scottish consumers are reacting better to campaigns run by the grocers than those in England and Wales. Fashion sales struggled in the warmer weather as shoppers are tending to buy winter woollies when they're needed rather than when they become available.

"With little more than six weeks until Christmas retailers' festive campaigns are now in full swing. They need the weather to cool and confidence to burgeon to encourage shoppers to spend and give Christmas 2013 that much needed feel-good factor. I remain cautiously optimistic and feel the level of discounting may be less than in previous seasons — time will tell if the retailer will hold firm for margin or give way with pre-Christmas bargains."

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