Mixed results for retailers as sales rise

RETAIL figures for August will today reveal a mixture of good and bad news, with total sales up 2.2 per cent on the year before but like-for-like sales down 0.1 per cent.<br /><br />&nbsp;Total sales, which includes revenue from extra retail space added since last August, hint at an increase in consumer and retailer confidence.<br /><br />But the like-for-like drop is worrying, especially as last August was a poor month because of bad weather.<br /><br />The British Retail Consortium (BRC), which released the figures today, had expected to see softer performance compared to July. The consensus forecast was for like-for-like retail sales to rise by 1.4 per cent year-on-year in August.<br /><br />The weaker figure, which comes after growth in July on the back of good weather and the summer sales, could trigger renewed concerns over the health of the consumer.<br /><br />Consumer spending accounts for about 65 per cent of GDP but there is now uncertainty about its strength in the future.<br /><br />Food sales continued to do better than discretionary non-food items. In the three months to August, food sales rose 3.8 per cent on a like-for-like basis while non-food fell by 0.7 per cent. Clothing and footwear weakened further, and homeware and furniture sales fell back below the levels that were seen a year earlier.<br /><br />Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC, said: &ldquo;The stronger figures of June and July haven&rsquo;t been sustained. It&rsquo;s clear the deceptively good sales growth of those months was due to summer sun and price cuts &ndash; not any major revival in how customers are feeling. What spending we now have is all about value and essentials.&rdquo;<br /><br />He also warned: &ldquo;As we head into autumn, we must not make too much of any positive sales growth because the comparison will be with very weak figures a year ago when total sales growth dipped below zero.&rdquo;