Retail enjoys January rebound with best growth in 13 months

Ben Southwood
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LIKE-FOR-LIKE sales grew at their fastest annual pace for 13-months in January, delivering a much-needed rebound to the embattled retail sector.

January’s sales were 1.9 per cent higher than during the same month last year, figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG revealed this morning. Total spend grew an even healthier three per cent over the 12 months.

BRC director general Helen Dickinson cheered the growth as a rare nugget of welcome news for the sector which has seen Jessops, HMV and Blockbuster collapse in the last month.

“After a fairly subdued December, these results are sure to lift spirits for many,” Dickinson said. “Retailers didn’t have high hopes for strong sales at Christmas, but this meant they prepared well and headed into the New Year with less stock to clear than last year.”

She said a number of must-have new tech products, combined with returning consumer confidence delivered January’s improvement.

Online sales growth had actually slowed down slightly since January 2012, but compared to the rest of the market it was roaring ahead.

Sales were up 10.2 per cent over the year, a slight deceleration compared to the 11.3 per cent the sector grew over the 12 months to last January, though this was a bigger fall compared to the closer to 20 per cent online growth registered in December.

However KPMG’s David McCorquodale worried that the cost of the impressive sales growth might have been aggressive “promotions and margin squeezes” whose cost will put a dent in retailers’ profits.