Sales Helped By Early Easter

The early Easter helped boost retail sales last month by their highest level since April 2014, according to a new report.

In March 2015, total Scottish sales decreased by 0.1% compared with March 2014, the SRC-KPMG Scottish Retail Sales Monitor found.

Like-for-like sales, which exclude spending in stores that opened or closed in the intervening year, decreased by 1% on last March.

However, when adjusted for deflation measured at 2.1% by the BRC-Nielsen Shop Price Index (SPI), total Scottish sales increased by 1.9% in real terms, a record high since April 2014.

Retail experts said the sales were boosted by Easter, which was included in March's figures this year as opposed to April last year.

David Martin, head of policy and external affairs at the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), said: "Following a strong increase in footfall, retail sales returned the best performance for almost a year in March and provided a welcome boost to what has been an otherwise sluggish first quarter in 2015.

"Whilst consumer confidence continues to rebound and the underlying economic conditions improve, much of the bounce was thanks to Easter falling two weeks earlier than last year.

"This allowed retailers to capitalise on the key trading days of Good Friday and Easter Saturday.

"The holiday bounce helped to drive up food sales for grocery retailers but also benefited non-food sales.

"Many of us used the bank holiday break to spruce up our homes and gardens, benefiting furniture sales whilst health and beauty ranges were popular in March as gifts for Mother's Day.

"Retailers have now enjoyed the Easter bounce so, looking ahead, April's figures may prove more challenging.

"The head winds of deflation continue to blow hard against retailers working incredibly hard to make gains and whilst consumer confidence and economic growth seem to be going in the right direction, the key to success will be when consumers start to feel it fully in their wallets.''

Total food sales were 0.5% up on March 2014, the best food performance since April 2014, while total non-food sales were 0.7% down on the previous year.

When adjusted for the estimated effect of online sales in Scotland, total non-food sales increased by 0.7%, the best performance since November 2014.

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said: "Food retailers continued their fightback from the problems of last year and were the best-performing sector this month.

"Adjusting for deflation, food sales increased by 1.4% in real terms - the best return since Andy Murray won Wimbledon.

"The timing of Easter will have boosted this significantly but grocers will be relieved to have today's good news.

"Unsettled and wet weather has dampened the sales of spring fashions whilst demand for outdoor goods, normally a beneficiary of the Easter weekend, was slowed by the cooler weather.

"As a result, total non-food sales, adjusted to include online sales, only increased by 0.7%, which is disappointing when compared to a month which does not include Easter.

"The gap in non-food growth over the last three months between Scotland and the rest of the UK widened by one percentage point to 2.6%.

"High-street traffic may well be up in April but it could be people turning out to see politicians on their hustings rather than eager shoppers hunting bargains.

"It is only when we have April's numbers that we will see the effect of Easter balancing out and the real comparison for spring 2015. ''

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