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Good retail sales; consumer confidence still lower
May '11
Sales values were up 3.4% on a like-for-like basis from April 2010, when sales had fallen 2.0% as only Easter Sunday and Monday fell into the April trading period then. This year all of Easter was in April's trading period. On a total basis, sales were up 5.5%, against a 0.7% increase in April 2010.

Food sales returned to growth after March's Easter-distorted fall. Clothing and footwear benefited from the warm weather, as did outdoor DIY and leisure. But indoor products suffered, with big-ticket items hardest hit and often promotion-led, amid continued consumer uncertainty about job and income prospects.

As in the UK, overall like-for-like sales picked up, largely cancelling out March's fall. Consumer confidence remains weaker in Scotland than in the UK as a whole.

Fiona Moriarty, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said:
"Unseasonably warm, sunny weather and more bank holidays in the month because of the Royal Wedding and the later Easter meant this April gave customers more opportunities and more reasons to shop than the same period last year.

"Scotland's highest April temperatures since records began in 1910 and widespread discounting encouraged people to buy summer food, clothing and footwear. Gardening and other outdoor products also did well.

"But consumer confidence is still lower in Scotland than the rest of the UK and sales of big-tickets items such as furniture struggled as people put off big spending commitments.

"Overall, April's solid sales growth is good news after very weak figures in March but the fundamentals have not changed. Underlying conditions for customers and retailers will go on being tough for many months yet."

David McCorquodale, Head of Retail in Scotland, KPMG, said:
"An increase in like-for-like sales of 3.4 per cent from April 2010 will be a relief to many retailers. However the figures lead me to think of swallows and summer and it's far too early to tell if this latest development marks the start of a longer term trend. Last year only Easter Sunday and Monday fell in the April trading period, with Good Friday and the Saturday being in the March period, while this year received a welcome boost from all the bank holidays and unusually warm weather.

Non-food sales on the other hand were only up by 0.5 per cent with the uplift in summer clothing and footwear sales being offset by a decline in sales of homewares.

"Consumers and retailers alike remain cautious about the remainder of the year with sentiment being more negative than positive. Interest rates being maintained will have been welcomed by retailers."

Scottish Retail Consortium

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