SO what can we learn from the Scottish Retail Consortium’s sales figures for the key festive trading month of December?

There is much familiar in the numbers. They tell a tale of continuing intense pressure on household budgets in Scotland, which mirrors the dismal situation elsewhere in the UK as inflation outstrips weak nominal pay increases.

Real wages are falling again as a result of the surge in inflation caused by sterling’s post-Brexit vote weakness and, unfortunately, it is a matter of simple arithmetic that this unhappy situation spells lean times for high streets the length and breadth of the UK.

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The SRC figures provide further evidence that grocers continue to fare relatively better than non-food retailers.

That said, they are having to fight hard for their shares of household spending in a fiercely competitive sector, with the Brexit vote having hiked imported food costs.

It says much of the backdrop that probably the most positive thing in the SRC figures was a sharp deceleration in the year-on-year decline in the value of non-food sales last month.

This enabled the Scottish retail sector to achieve an albeit modest year-on-year rise in sales value.

The problem for retailers is there is a good chance consumers pulled out the stops with their festive spending. And there is nothing to suggest January will be anything other than challenging for the sector.