Strong retail sales growth but 2010 outlook uncertain

RETAIL sales enjoyed their strongest October growth for seven years with retail sales values rising 3.8 per cent on a like-for-like basis, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).<br /><br />But the BRC warned that last month&rsquo;s strong performance was compared to October 2008, when sales fell 2.2 per cent due to turmoil in the financial markets hitting consumer confidence. <br /><br />The continued slowdown in food price inflation saw food sales growth sink to its slowest pace in 19 months at 2.6 per cent in the three months to October. <br /><br />The growth in non-food sales values continued to accelerate to two per cent on a like-for-like basis. This marked the second month in a row that non food sales &ndash; which constitute more discretionary spending &ndash; outperformed the food sector. <br /><br />Stephen Robertson, director general at the BRC, said: &ldquo;With less than 50 days to go before Christmas, retailers will be hoping improved consumer confidence will be sustained during the festive period and beyond.&rdquo; <br /><br />But he warned that 2010 has many uncertainties, including the likelihood of rising unemployment and tax increases.