Scottish retailers experienced their worst Christmas sales since 1999 with total sales in December up 1.6% year-on-year, the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) has said.

The SRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor revealed like-for-like sales for the month edged up 0.4%.

But KPMG head of retail in Scotland David McCorquodale called the slight uplift “illusory”, as last year’s sales were significantly impacted by the heavy snowfall.

Non-food sales strengthened, driven by clothing and footwear, as a result of “aggressive” discounting.

Promotions across homewares and furniture also improved sales, but consumer confidence meant shoppers were sticking to essential purchases.

SRC director Ian Shearer said: “December wasn’t the saviour of a consistently harsh year for Scottish retailers. Sales growth revived to its highest since July but this still represented a real terms fall once inflation is allowed for.

“The Christmas boost was well below both what Scottish retailers hoped for and the UK-wide figures. It came largely from a last-minute surge in the week before Christmas, helped by discounts and the shopping opportunity presented by the Saturday Christmas Eve.

McCoquodale said: “Christmas this year came at a real cost to retailers as the discounting was deep, impacting margins, and opening hours were longer, costing more in wages.

“Several retailers have not made it into the New Year and more shop closures are anticipated in the coming months.

“With consumer confidence no better than during the recession, the outlook remains difficult and retailers will continue to focus on cash management, stock control and on working with their supply chains.”