September sales down again

Retail sales have now been lower than a year ago in six of the past seven months.
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The latest British Retail Consortium Figures show that UK retail sales values fell 1.5 per cent on a like-for-like basis, from September 2007, when they had risen 3 per cent. The figures mean the period is the worst since summer 2005.

Colder, wetter weather than last September hit sales but some sunny weekends helped end-of-season clearances of summer lines.

As in August, food and drink was the only sector to show sales significantly up on a year ago.

Turmoil in financial markets hit consumer confidence while increasing demands on household budgets meant shoppers looked for value and discounts and planned spending carefully, both for food and non-food items.

Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC said:

“The financial turmoil has further undermined consumer confidence with like-for-like sales now down in six of the last of seven months. Impulse buying is disappearing as people consider purchases carefully and actively seek out promotions. If you’re after a bargain it’s great news as shops have responded with some of the most dramatic discounts and offers in recent times.

“Retailers will be hoping customers are willing and able to spend for Christmas as an antidote to the current gloom.”

Helen Dickinson, head of retail for KPMG, said:

“Despite the ongoing turmoil in global and the UK financial markets and the doom and gloom headlines, UK retail is not in freefall. The UK consumer is still spending and total retail sales were up in September on the same period a year ago.

“However, the trend continues in a downward direction - the growth in total sales is marginal at one per cent and at like-for-like level there is a decline, which has been the case for six of the last seven months. Inflation is behind much of the growth in food, and this is the main driver of overall performance.

“The non-food sectors continue to suffer, with all apart from footwear showing like-for-like falls in the month. The key question now is not what has happened but what will be the impact of the current environment on sales over the crucial Christmas trading period - many will be holding their breath.”

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