Gardening and DIY put a spring in the step of Scottish sales figures

Gardening and DIY purchases helped boost rebounding Scottish sales figures, but growth is still lower than last year.

The latest figures show total retail sales in Scotland grew 0.3% in March 2019 compared to an increase of 0.8% in March 2018.

This growth is up from the 0.1% total reduction in February 2019 and the Scottish retail body remain confident of increased sales in April.

However, the 0.3% total is below both the three and 12-month averages of 0.8% and 0.4% respectively, while adjusted for the 0.9% Shop Price Index (SPI) inflation, March sales decreased 0.6%.

Although political uncertainty is believed to be having an impact on the buying of big, expensive items, areas such as DIY and gardening products helped contribute to a 1.3% rise in non-food sales.

With Easter and school holidays falling in April, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium David Lonsdale said businesses could have “cautious optimism” about next month’s growth.

Mr Lonsdale said: “Scottish retail sales were resilient in March despite Easter falling in April this year.

“Although there was a real-terms fall of 0.6%, high street retailers saw some positive growth and there is cause for cautious optimism looking ahead with Easter and school holidays to be factored in to April.

“Food sales were essentially flat, due to a combination of Easter falling in April and continued food price inflation.

“In essence, volumes were down but that was offset by the higher value of sales as retailers have to pass on a portion of their increased costs to consumers.

“Non-food sales were up by 1.3%, despite consumer uncertainty continuing to impact on large discretionary purchases. Nonetheless smaller home purchases did well in the month, with DIY and gardening products selling well as Scots looked to improve their homes.

“Mother’s Day was more mixed, with good sales of jewellery and watches being offset by weaker performance in beauty products.

“Overall, retailers will be relieved trading was better than last year, and there was no repeat of the ‘Beast from the East’.

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, added: “The month started strongly compared to last year, when shoppers were forced to stay indoors by the Beast from the East, but sales quickly dropped as the weeks passed.

“Nevertheless, March bucked the usual trends. Non-food items performed much better than recent months, increasing by 1.3% when adjusted for online purchases, whereas food sales declined by 0.2% as a result of Easter 2018 distorting last year’s figures.

“March may have provided breathing space for retailers but the path to success is not smooth and businesses will need to remain agile in a changing landscape.”