Sales rise for UK’s resilient retailers

Julian Harris
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ISH shops have unexpectedly recorded growing sales in the three months to September, defying the wider economic turmoil.

Like-for-like retail sales were 0.3 per cent up last month, compared to the same time in 2010, data revealed this morning.

And the three-month weighted average – designed to iron out monthly volatility – showed like-for-like sales up 0.1 per cent compared to last year, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said.

Total sales, which include shops’ expansions, were up 2.5 per cent in September, and 2.2 per cent from July through to September.

However, the BRC’s director general, Stephen Robertson, remained downbeat.

“In these harsh times, we have to be thankful for this minor improvement in growth compared with August but underlying conditions remain weak,” Robertson warned.

“Spending growth is below inflation meaning customers are buying less than this time last year. And there’s no guarantee next month’s figure will be better.”

Food sales are propping up the figures. Like-for-like food sales were up 2.1 per cent from July to September, while total food sales spiked 5.1 per cent.

“Hot weather at the end of September boosted spending on food and drink, but clothing sales slumped as the sun undermined interest in winter ranges,” Robertson explained.

“Short-lived factors such as the weather and discounting are influencing sales not any fundamental change in how customers are feeling.”

Consumers are responding to the economic squeeze by looking for high value purchases, according to a separate report released yesterday by consumer researchers Nielsen.

Thirty-six per cent of shoppers surveyed across 51 countries said they favoured larger, economy-sized packages.

“As commodity and raw material costs continue to rise, this is the clear preference among consumers,” the report said.