Sales up 1.8 per cent on March 2011
Record warm weather in March helped to lift retail sales in Scotland by 1.8 per cent compared to March 2011, figures from the Scottish Retail Consortium (SCR) suggest.
The SRC said Scottish retail sales in March were the first positive growth figures since Christmas, though sales were still weaker than the UK as a whole.
However, the SRC said March 2011 figures were “exceptionally weak” given Easter fell in March in 2011 and in April this year.
Scottish consumer confidence is also lagging the rest of the UK.
SRC director Ian Shearer said: "The unusually early sunshine encouraged people to start buying summer clothes and shoes, outdoor furniture and gardening supplies. Food retailers benefited from sales of barbecue meats, salads and ice-cream.
"But, on a cautious note, the comparison is with a March which was cold and weak a year ago and the sales increase is still a real-terms fall once inflation is factored in.
"Scotland's total sales grew at only half the rate of the UK as a whole and show Scottish retailers continue to face exceptionally tough conditions, hampered by low consumer confidence and reduced footfall.
"The boost is welcome but could just be purchases which have come earlier than usual, rather than additional spend."
He added: “Some retailers face a struggle for survival as sales remain dependent on deep discounting.
“It will take more than a few weeks of warmth to bring Scottish retailing back to full health."
David McCorquodale, head of retail in Scotland with KPMG, said: “Sunshine and inflation have combined to improve retailers' sales figures.
“But it is worth remembering the comparison is made against last March's particularly weak set of statistics, the worst fall in a decade at the time, and this year was the warmest March since 1938, while we experienced snowfalls in March 2011.”
He added: "The retail environment remains very tough with discounts being the main enticement used by retailers.
“This in turn impacts the margins and the fortunes of the retail sector, which is saddled with hefty fixed costs.
“For the consumer, a few days of sunshine may lift some gloom but family budgets remain under significant pressure.”