Scottish shops have continued to under-perform against those in the rest of the UK, despite a small rise in sales.
Total retail sales remained stagnant last month with the 1% rise on September last year flattened out by inflation, according to accountants KPMG.
Like-for-like sales, which does not include stores that have opened in the last year, were down -0.8%.
KPMG fears that retailers may have to discount their Christmas profits away unless Scotland sees a boost in consumer confidence. Food sales were the best performing sector (+3.4%) although this was partly driven by promotions and discounts, particularly sales that gave shoppers a discount on petrol.
David McCorquodale, KPMG head of retail in Scotland, said: "With total sales up by 1%, September's figures appear to bring much-needed relief for Scottish retailers. However, closer examination shows the rise was mainly in the food sector where sales soared by 3.4% as budget conscious consumers tried to spread the cost of Christmas by stocking up on confectionery and other items."
He said clothing and footwear received a boost in September as the wet summer turned to autumn, adding: "Retailers will now be hoping that the consumer finds some confidence for 2013 to drive sales for the next three months. If that doesn't happen there's a real risk that the retailers will be forced to discount their seasonal margins away."
The Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), which commissioned the report, said the figures "offer faint glimmers of hope after a disappointing summer for sales and two consecutive months of year-on-year falls".
Director Fiona Moriarty said: "Times remain tough for customers, so any modest revival in sales should be seen within a wider context of continual pressures on household incomes. Retailers will be hoping that this very tentative boost builds as we head towards the crucial Christmas season, rather than fading amid new worries about rising household bills."
The SRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor measures changes in the actual value, including VAT, of retail sales excluding automotive fuel.
It stated: "After accounting for inflation, September total sales were flat in real terms. Given the relatively strong comparable, this represents the best growth over a 24 month period since the beginning of the year. The pick-up experienced by Scotland in September was of the same magnitude as the UK but the Scottish level of growth remained 2.4 percentage points below the UK."