Page last updated at 23:34 GMT, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 00:34 UK

Scottish retail sales holding up

Pupils in classroom (Generic)
Spending on school uniforms helped boost sales in some shops

Scottish retail sales continued to climb during August, providing "hints of optimism" about economic recovery.

The survey by the Scottish Retail Consortium found that total sales increased by 5.7%.

It also showed food sales were up 7.7%, which reflected grocery price inflation.

Like-for-like sales - which do not include new stores - grew 0.8% compared with last year which was still well ahead of sales in the UK as a whole.

The growth rate for retail sales in Scotland was slightly ahead of the July figure, but behind a sun-driven boost in June.

Comparison with the rest of the UK figures, compiled by the British Retail Consortium, have shown total Scottish shop takings growing at a faster rate every month for the past year.

In August, total UK sales were up 3% compared with Scotland's 5.7%.

Customers are generally not sure enough of their own circumstances to make big spending commitments
David McCorquodale

Among retail sectors, disappointing August weather meant poor sales for barbecue food, but there were good gains in salads and soft fruits.

Back-to-school offers helped clothes and shoe shops, but there was a reluctance to spend on autumn and winter ranges until that becomes necessary.

Bigger-ticket items continued to find the recession hard-going, particularly with forward orders for fitted carpets.

And after difficult trading for do-it-yourself sales, there are signs that people are beginning to spend again on home improvements and refreshing when many face a wait before they are able to move home again.

Richard Dodd, of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said there were hints of optimism.

He said: "Scottish sales growth is holding up better than elsewhere in the UK".

"But for established stores, sales growth was weak and barely changed from July. Wet weather hit sales of summer food and drink and seasonal fashions.

"Slowing food inflation and price falls on a range of non-food goods undermined overall sales figures.

"Despite things like furniture and electricals often being cheaper than a year ago, customers are generally not sure enough of their own circumstances to make big spending commitments".

David McCorquodale, head of retail for business consultants KPMG, which sponsors the survey, said: "Shoppers are reluctant to buy winter items until they are absolutely necessary.

"There is still a cautious approach to spending and, at all levels, volatility remains high reflecting the precarious nature of consumer demand."

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