Scottish shops suffered a decline in sales but still managed to “outperform” their UK rivals during March, a new report shows.
Sales in Scotland were down 1.6% on a like-for-like basis, a figure which excludes trading at outlets opened since March 2015.
Food sales were 2% lower, though non-food trading was 1.2% higher when online purchases are factored in.
Household items such as furniture and electrical appliances were the strongest performers thanks to the inclusion of a “very early” Easter week in March, according to the latest retail sales monitor from KPMG and the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC).
The study said the week after Easter Sunday, which fell on March 27 this year, tends to be popular for big-ticket items.
On the flip side, Easter was on April 5 last year – meaning sales of large items and home accessories are likely to turn out lower this month than they were in April 2015.
Footwear and clothing sales suffered their worst decline since May 2015 last month, with SRC blaming the “inclement weather normally associated with an early Easter”.
SRC director David Lonsdale said he was disappointed to see Scottish retail sales “chalk up another month of decline” but encouraged they had “fared better” than the rest of the UK, “which suffered a much deeper slowdown”.
In terms of total sales, Scotland has gone from a decline of 0.1% in March 2015 to a decrease of 1.3% in March 2016, creating a slowdown of 1.2%.
The UK, however, has gone from growth of 4.7% in March 2015 to being unchanged last month, meaning there is a gap of 4.7%.
Mr Lonsdale also said last month’s increase in sales of non-fashion, non-food items pointed to a slight increase in reported consumer confidence.
David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said grocers were continuing to struggle in the face of “deflation, competitive market forces and changes in shopping habits”.
Mr McCorquodale added: “With the implementation of the National Living Wage now in force, retailers will be looking hard at their own productivity and hoping the extra pennies in the hands of the country’s workforce will flow their way back into the tills.
“The fight for share of the consumer’s wallet remains a tough one for retailers as shoppers seek experience and enjoyment in other sectors.”