December sales up 7.3 per cent
Like-for-like sales in Scotland were up 3.8 per cent during December, the strongest figure recorded since February last year.

Total sales increased by 7.3 per cent during the month, an improvement on the 4.4 per cent growth in November and the highest figure recorded since July.

Most of December's growth came from non-food sales, with a 5.2 per cent gain. Food sales were slightly weaker than in November, but remained lower than a year ago. Clothing and footwear sales improved.

Scottish Retail Consortium director Fiona Moriarty said: 'Retailers will be heartened by the positive growth in sales during December. Those retailers who tapped into what consumers wanted got their range and mix of products right - and, most importantly, got the price right - did very well.'

Royal Bank of Scotland group chief economist Andrew McLaughlin added: 'While so much attention was fixated upon an inflated housing market, the retail sector was quietly achieving its own version of the fabled soft landing. The latest figures for December should enable the sector to begin 2006 with some festive sparkle, with total sales growing by 7.3 per cent and rising for the fourth consecutive month. Scottish consumers are responding to discounts in the shops and stability in the labour market.'