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Discounts help drive increase in sales on Scotland’s high streets

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Hefty discounts on winter coats and sturdy footwear have been credited for a rise in sales in Scotland.

Sales in Scotland’s retail sector rose by 1% last month compared with October 2018, according to the latest SRC-KPMG retail sales monitor.

Adjusted for deflation measured at 0.4% by the BRC-Nielsen Shop Price Index, October sales increased 1.4%.

When online sales were taken into account, total non-food sales rose by 1.7% last month, while in October 2018 they were up by 0.1%.

The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) said this is the best performance for the non-food sector since January, excluding Easter distortions.

Grocery sales also increased, up 2.5% last month compared to a 2.3% rise in October 2018.

SRC director David Lonsdale said: “This is a sprightly set of results for October, highlighting a more broadly based pick-up in demand across retail sub-sectors.

“This was buoyed by exceptional discounting as retailers’ used keen prices and promotions to successfully drive footfall and demand, particularly on winter coats and heavier footwear.

“It also points to the volatility of retail market conditions at the moment, following a slew of poor months.”

He added: “The non-food category overall recorded its strongest performance for five years.

“While fashion led the way, beds, home textiles and kitchenware did well, as did sales of mobile phones and televisions.

“Grocery items fared well too, in line with the average seen over recent months.

“That said, if customers continue to hold out for steep discounts that will put severe pressure on retailers’ already thin profit margins.

“Overall these figures strike a more optimistic note at the start of the crucial ‘golden quarter’ trading period that leads up to Christmas.”

Mr Lonsdale said a “big question remains over the future direction of consumer spending” with the General Election, Brexit and the Scottish and UK budgets set for the coming weeks and months.

KPMG UK head of retail Paul Martin said: “After a particularly challenging and prolonged period of uncertainty, the latest figures provide some reassurance and confidence.

“With total sales increasing by 1% compared to October 2018, we’re finally witnessing a return to growth.”