London retail sales growth slows down

RETAIL sales in London grew at their slowest rate for five years as the stronger pound made the capital less attractive for overseas shoppers.

Sales were 3.5 per cent up on the previous January, according to a report from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

In January 2009 sales figures grew by 6.5 per cent compared with the same month the year before.

The number of visitors from Western Europe plunged last month as the euro weakened against the pound, the BRC said.

They had been flooding to London to take advantage of the exchange rate to snap up bargains.

Meanwhile, footfall fell in January compared with the previous year after the big freeze saw potential shoppers staying away.

However, food sales were up as shoppers stocked up on essentials while homeware struggled.

Clothing sales were fuelled by a clamber for warm accessories. BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “After an exceptionally strong December this growth is disappointing, but not disastrous.”

The wintry weather put people off going shopping in the first half of January and customers are becoming cautious again about spending when they don’t have to.

But London retail sales are still showing real terms growth and significantly outperforming the rest of the UK.

The capital’s retailers will be hoping these results are mainly due to bad weather, rather than any long-term return to concerns about personal finances, keeping consumers away from shops. Some fear that concerns about the prospect of a double dip recession may be making shoppers more cautious.

London sales were stronger than those in the UK as whole, where like-for-like sales fell 0.7 per cent year-on-year against 1.1 per cent growth in January 2009.

And the BRC also found that the number of visitors from China had continued to go up.