Page last updated at 00:00 GMT, Wednesday, 17 March 2010

'Grim result' for February retail sales in Scotland

Shoppers on Buchanan Street
The cold weather meant people tended to shop for essentials

Scottish retailers have suffered their worst February for more than a decade, the latest sales figures have revealed.

The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) KPMG Retail Sales Monitor showed like-for-like sales last month fell 1.1% compared with 2009.

Like-for-like non-food sales were also down - falling 2.6%. The drop was the worst since the survey began in 1999.

Richard Dodd, of the SRC, blamed a combination of bad weather and customer caution for the "grim result".

He added: "After extreme weather kept shoppers at home in January, Scottish retailers were hoping for a revival in February, but continuing cold and snow denied them the bounce-back that was achieved in other parts of the UK."

Despite the drop total sales in February were 1.9% up on a year ago.

Retailers will be very focussed on driving the right promotions and products in the lead-up to Easter and the bank holidays
David McCorquodale

When it came to food sales, the like-for-like figures showed an increase of 0.5% compared with 12 months ago, but sales growth - which had slowed sharply in January - fell further in February.

Sales of confectionery products enjoyed a boost in the run-up to Valentine's Day and the cold weather also meant sales of winter vegetables, stews and soups did well.

However, the figures suggested that some shoppers went back to buying cheaper ranges after splashing out over the Christmas period.

The coldest February since 1986 also meant sales of the new spring and summer clothing ranges got off to a slow start.

And the increase in footwear sales, seen in January, failed to continue into February.

The homewares and DIY sector also suffered as the freezing temperatures as people tended to limit their shopping to essentials.

'Uncertain outlook'

David McCorquodale, head of retail in Scotland for KPMG, said like-for-like sales in the UK had seen "positive growth" in February.

He added that the fall in Scotland was "perhaps the first sign of a noticeable and concerning trend in the Scottish market place".

Mr McCorquodale said: "The increased VAT rate, the uncertain jobs outlook and the prospect of a hung parliament following the general election all have a bearing on confidence.

"Accordingly, retailers will be very focussed on driving the right promotions and products in the lead-up to Easter and the bank holidays that follow in May."

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