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London retail sales drop by 5.9 per cent

LONDON retail sales fell in August, the British Retail Consortium revealed today.<br /><br />Last month&rsquo;s sales were 5.9 per cent lower on a like-for-like basis than a year ago, when sales were up by 8.6 per cent on the previous year.<br /><br />The figures, which show the lowest sales growth for four years, come ahead of department store Debenham&rsquo;s trading statement on Tuesday and fashion store Next unveiling its interims on Wednesday.<br /><br />In July Next was so delighted with its better-than-expected trading performance that it released an unscheduled trading update.<br /><br />But the group also sounded a cautious note after it warned that shoppers may moderate their spending in the second half. Analysts will be watching for an expected 1.9 per cent revenue decline.<br /><br />Debenhams is expected to say that its Designers at Debenhams ranges, which includes Matthew Williamson and Jasper Conran, was lifting sales.<br /><br />The group is set to sign London Fashion Week designer Henry Holland to join its team. <br /><br />In June, the bellwether retailer completed a &pound;323m share of sales, to pay down its growing debt pile and reduce interest repayments. But it may still be suffering from sales falls as shoppers cut back on big ticket spending.&nbsp; <br /><br />Analysts will eagerly watch the two retailers&rsquo; updates for any hints of stability in the sector.<br /><br />London has throughout the downturn remained resilient compared to the rest of the country, due to attracting overseas investors and widespread discounting, but sales in August dipped for the first time this year. <br /><br />Footfall in central London was also&nbsp; 4.7 per cent lower than in August 2008, the weakest year-on-year comparison for 19 months, according to Synovate Retail Performance.<br /><br />BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: &ldquo;Clothing and footwear and big-ticket household goods suffered the biggest sales falls. People who bought summer fashions during June&rsquo;s heatwave and warmer clothes in July&rsquo;s downpours didn&rsquo;t buy more and customers are still reluctant to make major commitments.&rdquo;