Poor consumer confidence hits the High Street

A LACK of confidence among consumers has resulted in lacklustre retail sales growth over the past six months while next week’s Comprehensive Spending Review is unlikely to boost optimism among spenders.

Retail sales values rose just 0.5 per cent last month on a like-for-like basis from September 2009, when sales had risen 2.8 per cent. This is contrary to expectations, which had expected some improvement on August’s one per cent like-for-like sales growth.

Although food inflation helped boost like-for-like food sales values by 2.1 per cent in the three months to September, non-food sales were down on a year ago for the first time since mid-2009, the BRC said.

Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC, said: “With VAT higher than it was last year, and pushing up sales values, it’s an even worse performance than it looks. There is little evidence yet of major purchases being brought forward from 2011 to beat the coming VAT increase.”

“Despite widespread discounting, sales of major items had the toughest time. It’s clear people are cautious and major spending is largely on hold,” he added.