UK: October retail sales in pre-Christmas slowdown
After a slight uptick in September, UK retail sales fell again in October as shoppers cut back on purchases including clothing and footwear.
Official data released today (15 November) by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said retail sales volumes fell 0.8% in October, compared with the month before, while sales values were down 0.4%.
Compared with a year earlier, retail sales volumes were up 0.6%, and values rose 1.6%.
Sales at textile, clothing and footwear stores fell 2.3% in October compared with the month before. Compared with last year, the quantity of goods bought rose 2.0% and the amount spent was up 2.3%. Prices are estimated to have risen by 0.4% in the year, the ONS said.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) described the figures as a "bitter blow" for retailers," especially as they come so close to Christmas.
"September's slight upturn in sales offered retailers mild cause for cheer, but it was frustratingly short-lived," said BRC director general, Stephen Robertson.
"Consumer confidence dropped to a six-month low in October and this has led to sales growth almost grinding to a halt at a critical point.
"With Christmas fast approaching, retailers will be hoping that the festive feelgood factor translates into a much stronger showing next time."
Likewise, David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, described the figures as "worryingly lacklustre."
"The figures will put even more pressure on retailers to get Christmas right and will certainly influence how they approach the next five weeks of trading," he said.
"We may see some decide to 'up the ante' and begin significant promotions and discounts in order to win sales from their competitors. This can be a high risk strategy. Discounting can drive footfall, but if retailers cut too deeply this can impact profitability at a vital time of year.
"One thing is clear: the high street remains as competitive as ever. While consumer confidence remains shaky retailers will have to fight hard to win a share of the Christmas wallet."
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