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As usual, Hogmanay and Burns’ Night provided an uplift for sales of steak pies and haggis, and New Year resolutions and healthy eating promotions helped boost sales of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Overall, like-for-like, retail sales in January were four percent higher than in January 2006, when they had fallen 0.6%.
And, despite January normally being a quieter month for sales of food and drink, like-for-like sales were the best since August and significantly above the 3.1% average for the fourth quarter of 2006. In fact, overall, food sales were the best for almost two years.
Scotland’s performance in January remained stronger than that across the UK, which saw 3.1% like-for-like growth.
Fiona Moriarty, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said, “January saw good, though not spectacular, sales growth in Scotland but it came at the expense of margins with much of it driven by big discounting and clearance sales.
“Food sales were again up in line with UK-wide trends on the back of rising commodity prices and fresh produce promotions. Achieving similar growth over the next few months will be harder. March and April last year were relatively good months and therefore will be much harder to better, especially as the full impact of recent interest rate hikes has yet to filter through and may give consumer confidence a knock.”
Andrew McLaughlin, group chief economist at The Royal Bank of Scotland Group, said, “Retailers made a solid start to the year, rounding off the festive period with robust sales growth in January. This will have come as a welcome relief to retailers who suffered a New Year hangover last year following decent growth in December 2005.
“Consumers made a healthy start to the year with strong spending on fruit and veg, including blueberries and other ‘super foods’. Heavy discounting meant there were some good deals to be had by consumers.”
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