The late falling of Easter impacted Scottish retail sales in March as like-for-like sales slumped 3.8%.
Like-for-like food sales fell 5.2% during March, while non-food was down 2.7%, according to the latest Scottish Retail Consortium-KPMG Scottish Retail Sales Monitor.
Total Scottish retail sales decreased 2.5%, with food sales falling 3.5% and non-food slipping 1.8%.
The survey found that clothing and footwear was the best performing category in Scotland for the fifth month running, helped by a relatively weaker comparable period in March 2013, when the category had reported a record decline due to cold weather.
Within the category, women’s clothing performed well while sales of handbags were strong in the run-up to Mother’s Day. Customers bought into new footwear collections, men picked up casual shoes and sales of school shoes performed well last month.
Along with food, the home categories were the most impacted by the later timing of Easter. The SRC said it will need to analyse the April figure in order to form a view on the underlying trend.
Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium David Lonsdale said although these figures show a decline, they are stronger than expected given the fact that Easter fell later this year.
“A particularly strong performance in the fashion and footwear categories shows that shoppers are taking advantage of popular new collections on offerm” said Lonsdale. “Scottish retailers are working hard to respond to what customers want in this sector, and it is paying dividends. Unsurprisingly compared to last year, categories that perform strongly over the extended Easter break have seen lower sales. Household accessories and furniture are often key purchases over the holiday, and have seen a decline. In line with the rest of the UK, food sales are affected by the intense competition within this category.”
KPMG head of retail David McCorquodale said: “The timing of Easter - April this year, March last year - distorts the sales figures and exaggerates the decline in Scottish sales. The weather this year has been kinder and more spring-like compared with the icy blasts of last year, which has meant that clothing and fashion retailers have fared better in the first quarter of 2014 compared with last year.
“More favourable economic indicators are also helping to gently loosen some purse strings. In the other non-food categories, such as furniture, flooring and household goods, we will have to wait for Easter trading to see if there is a real uptick in these categories but I fear that the Scottish consumer will wish to have harder evidence of house price rises than indicators from the South East of England before big ticket expenditure in Scotland sees a noticeable recovery.”