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Food holds up sluggish retail sales

Love-struck Scots woo shops with spending spree

ValentineRomantic Scots helped fuel a rise in food and drink sales last month as they went on a spending spree for chocolates and wine for Valentine’s Day.

Dining out, however, was kicked into touch in favour of supermarket meal deals as pressures on household budgets began to tighten.

New retail figures for February show food sales continue to edge up by 1.3% while sales of clothing and household appliances fell back.

This dragged the overall numbers down by 0.9% on a like-for-like basis compared to February 2016.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “This year has got off to a somewhat sluggish start for Scotland’s shopkeepers with a second successive month in which retail sales have nudged down.

“Even continued falling shop prices weren’t enough to staunch the decline, with retail sales performing less well last month than over the past quarter.

“In recent months we’ve seen a polarisation in the performance of food and non-food categories; which continued in February.

“Food sales continued to edge up, helped by good sales of wine and chocolates for St Valentine’s Day as well as stronger demand for grocers’ meal deals; which perhaps hints at less eating out during the period as consumers reined in spending.

“By contrast non-food categories fell back once again, particularly clothing, footwear and household appliances, though there was continuing interest in mobile phones, wearable technology and a revival in gaming products.

“These figures suggest Scottish consumers are maybe beginning to tighten their belts and acknowledge the strain from rising overall inflation and moderating wage growth, with council tax set to creep up soon too.

“The commitments to increase the UK personal allowance and maintain Scottish income tax rates at current levels will therefore provide timely and welcome support for family finances.”

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