Caution is the watchword for UK’s retailers

 
Elizabeth Fournier
BOTTOM LINE

AFTER spending Wednesday bemoaning the chancellor’s lack of action on the looming business rates rise, retailers may be tempted to breathe a sigh of relief after yesterday’s jump in sales.

But though a 2.6 per cent rise year on year may lift spirits for a while, there’s little in the numbers for at-risk stores to be optimistic about – and a quick glance at the high-street’s ever-present sales banners shows shopowners know it too.

Buyers now spend an average of £540m each week on the internet – up more than 10 per cent on last year. With incomes tight it’s inevitable that extra cash is being squeezed from other channels, and three-monthly comparisons are far less flattering, with both volumes and values falling.

The occupants of Land Securities’ new Leeds Trinity mall – a £378m project that opened yesterday – will be hoping the rise is the start of an upward trend rather than the blip it looks like. They’ll need to focus their efforts on something more innovative than early spring discounting to make sure that’s the case.