Retail sales figures on the rise

Scotland's economy has been given a boost as new figures showed that both retail sales at home and overseas exports were on the rise.

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The latest Retail Sales Index showed a rise of 1.1% in the overall volume of sales in the final three months of 2013, meaning this was up by 4% over the year.

At the same time separate statistics showed international exports increased to a provisional total of £26 billion in 2012 - up by £1.4 billion on the previous year.

Finance Secretary John Swinney said the 5.9% increase in exports was "particularly encouraging given the challenging economic conditions in Europe".

He also hailed the retail sales figures as a "further positive sign of recovery in the Scottish economy".

The food and drink sector was Scotland's largest exporter, with overseas sales of £4.7 billion in 2012, followed by the petroleum and chemical industry, with sales of £4.1 billion.

The USA remained the largest single market for Scottish exports, with goods worth £3.6 billion sold there, according to the latest figures from the Global Connections Survey.

Sales to just five countries - America, the Netherlands, France, Germany and Norway - accounted for more than two fifths (42%) of all international exports in 2012, with these amounting to £10.8 billion.

The manufacturing sector accounted for the bulk of Scotland's overseas exports, with these totalling £15.4 billion, a rise of £1.1 billion on 2011. A further £8.7 billion of international exports came from the service sector, with this up by £465 million from the previous year.

As well as showing a rise in the volume of sales, the Retail Sales Index also revealed an increase in the value of Scottish retail sales.

Without accounting for inflation, this increased by 0.9% in the last quarter of 2013, to achieve annual growth of 4.6%.

The increase in the volume of sales in Scotland was higher than across the UK, where growth of 0.8 over the quarter and 3.7% for the year was achieved.

But the UK as a whole saw a slightly greater increase in the value of sales, with these increasing by 1% in the fourth quarter of 2013 and by 4.9% over the year.

Mr Swinney said: "Today's Retail Sales Index statistics show that retail sales performance has continued to grow over the past year and are a further positive sign of recovery in the Scottish economy.

"Retail sales grew by 1.1% during the fourth quarter of 2013 and by 4.0% over the last year. Our most recent GDP figures show that over the last 18 months economic growth has improved steadily with growth of 0.7% in the third quarter and strong performances in construction, services and manufacturing, while last week's labour market statistics show Scotland's unemployment rate is at a five-year low and 90,000 more people were employed than last year.

"This continued growth in Scotland's economy is helping to create more jobs and opportunities for the people of Scotland."

He also said the export figures showed "increased demand for Scottish goods and services and the popularity of the Scottish brand across the world".

The Finance Secretary added: "They are particularly encouraging given the challenging economic conditions in Europe and show that there continue to be opportunities for Scotland's exporters."


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