THE value of Scottish retail sales showed a renewed year-on-year fall in January, as the sector remained under pressure from straitened household finances, a survey reveals.

Scottish retail sales value in January was down by 0.1 per cent on the same month of 2017, which had seen a 3.5 per cent year-on-year fall.

The survey, published today by the Scottish Retail Consortium, underlines the continuing weakness of non-food sales. This tends to be the more discretionary element of retail spending.

Food sales value continued to show a sharp year-on-year rise but this was again driven significantly by inflation.

Figures published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics showed annual UK consumer prices index inflation, which has been fuelled by sterling’s post-Brexit vote weakness, remained stuck at a significantly above-target three per cent in January.

The value of Scottish retail sales had in December, according to the SRC, been up by 0.8 per cent on the same month of 2016.

The SRC’s latest survey shows the value of food sales north of the Border in January was up by 4.2 per cent on the same month of last year.

This took average year-on-year growth in food sales value over the past 12 months to 4.1 per cent, the greatest since July 2011.

Non-food sales value last month was down by 3.6 per cent on January 2017.

Ewan MacDonald-Russell, head of policy and external affairs at the SRC, said: “The underlying thing that is slightly concerning is last year January wasn’t great, and this one just about breaks even.”

He added: “All the evidence is that consumers continue to be careful with their spending at a time of uncertainty.”

Mr MacDonald-Russell noted non-food sales had continued to struggle in January, with “several retailers offering significant promotional activity to encourage sales”.

And he noted there was little sign of where extra money for Scottish consumers was going to come from, highlighting a “cocktail” of rising interest rates, above-target UK inflation, and impending council tax increases.

The Bank of England raised UK base rates in November for the first time in more than a decade, by a quarter-point from a record low of 0.25 per cent.

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney last week signalled further increases in base rates, while highlighting Brexit uncertainty.

Unveiling the Bank’s latest inflation report, Mr Carney said: “The MPC (Monetary Policy Committee) judges that, were the economy to evolve broadly in line with its February inflation report projections, monetary policy would need to be tightened somewhat earlier and by a somewhat greater extent over the forecast period than it anticipated at the time of the November report, in order to return inflation sustainably to the target.”

He added: “All members agree any future increases in Bank Rate are expected to be at a gradual pace and to a limited extent.”

Mr MacDonald-Russell said: “Retailers will have to continue to work hard to encourage consumer spending in the months ahead.”

Craig Cavin, head of retail in Scotland at accountancy firm and survey sponsor KPMG, said: “Retailers will be glad to see the back of January.”

He added: “Some retailers tempted customers into store using discounting and the introduction of new season lines, yet non-food sales declined 3.6 per cent compared to last year.”

The year-on-year movement in retail sales value in Scotland in January was, once again, weaker than that in the UK as a whole.

British Retail Consortium figures show UK retail sales value in January was up by 1.4 per cent on the same month of 2017.

The SRC has in the past highlighted the part the relatively stronger economy in London and south-east England has played in the superior year-on-year movements in UK retail sales.