Shops have a tough start to fourth quarter

THE RETAIL sector began the final quarter of the year with a demoralising 3.1 per cent drop in annualised like-for-like sales, according to accountancy group BDO.

An identical 3.1 per cent fall was also recorded in like-for-like fashion sales, compared to the same time last year, as shoppers delayed winter purchases partly due to the mild October weather.

Slow spending remains under pressure from “rock bottom” consumer confidence, BDO said, as well as the “rumbling crisis in the Eurozone”.

Yet non-store sales, which include internet purchases, are up 20.7 per cent year-on-year, with the report citing companies such as Next that have used the web to offset weak high street demand.

“Despite the unremitting flow of bleak news, the non-stores sales show consumers’ underlying desire to spend is still there,” said an upbeat Don Williams, head of retail and wholesale at BDO.

“Rather than slapping the ‘sale’ sign on everything, our best retailers continue to plan a series of regular discounts that will get people over the threshold without eating into margins too much.”