Gloom on the high street as sales drop

Julian Harris
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A WEAK end to the year looms for British shops, after consumer spending dropped in October.

Spending was down 0.9 per cent last month compared to September, according to a report published this morning by Visa. Compared to October 2010, spending on Visa cards plummeted by 1.9 per cent.

And retailers fear a bleak Christmas after like-for-like sales fell by 0.6 per cent in October compared to the same time last year, a separate survey also revealed today.

“A lasting lift in consumers’ mood needs a sense that better times will come for jobs, costs and incomes,” said Stephen Robertson of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which compiled the survey.

“The chancellor should use this month’s Autumn Statement to help customers and businesses by offering hope over next year’s planned fuel duty and business rates increases,” Robertson added.

Over the last three months total retail sales are up 1.9 per cent compared to the same time last year – yet food sales are entirely responsible for the gain. Sales of items other than food are down by 0.3 per cent on last year, in terms of value.

“Allowing for the VAT rise since last year, that suggests a substantial drop in sales volumes,” Robertson said.

Like-for-like sales, which exclude expansions in shop floors, were down by 0.3 per cent overall, with non-food sales down by 1.8 per cent.