Scottish retail sales dip

Worst February y-on-y performance since 1999 on both measures.

A Marks and Spencers store in Glasgow, Scotland. Credit: Getty Images.

Total retail sales in Scotland fell 0.6 per cent in February 2012 compared to the previous year, due to weak consumer confidence, according to the Scottish Retail Consortium retail sales monitor report.

Like-for-like sales in February 2012 were 1.7 per cent lower than previous year, when they declined 1.3 per cent. On both measures this was the worst February year-on-year performance since 1999.

Ian Shearer, director of SRC, said: "Less bad than it was, is the best we can say for these figures. It's a relief that February didn't outdo January's worst-for-a-decade sales fall, but sales were again down on a year earlier and have now been negative for four of the last five months."

Food sales growth increased marginally but was still below the rate of inflation, since customers purchased less compared to previous year.

Compared to previous year, non-food sales declined. Compared to record fall in January 2012, the decline of non-food sales were slightly lower.

Shearer added: "Food did better than January as people restocked but most non-food goods struggled seriously. Especially for big-ticket items, it's taking margin-sapping discounts to generate the sales that are happening because many customers are still afraid to spend where they don't have to."

Uncertainty about jobs and incomes continued in February and has affected clothing, footwear and homewares sales. Big-ticket purchases -- retail goods that have a high selling price in comparison to other items sold in the same store -- were also badly affected.

On both like-for-like and total measures, sales were weaker than for the whole of the UK. Consumer confidence remained unchanged in the UK as a whole.

"The continued pressure on household budgets, and uncertainties about employment prospects, are undermining any boost to consumer confidence from falling inflation. It's vital that governments in both Holyrood and Westminster support jobs and growth by holding back business costs," concluded Shearer.

David McCorquodale, head of retail in Scotland, KPMG, said: “February was another disappointing month with very little to cheer about on the high street. One positive is the continued recovery in food sales which showed their largest rise since July 2011. While there is some inflationary increase in this number, it is nonetheless heartening to see recovery in the necessities.

"However, the significant fall in non-food sales, where both total sales and like-for like sales fell by more than four per cent - after the worst fall since records began the previous month - shows just how low consumer confidence has become. Until an upturn is truly felt through jobs, wages or net income, it seems that no level of promotion or discounting from the retailer can really lift the gloom.

"Many retailers feel they are fighting hard just to stand still at best and don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. However, there are retailers out there who deliver what the customer wants and needs - in terms of product, brand and price - which proves that if the proposition is spot on it is still possible to outperform the market and the competition."