UK: September retail sales cautious ahead of Christmas
UK retail sales grew 0.7% in September - slower than the 1.5% recorded in the same month last year, despite strong demand for children's clothing and footwear online ahead of Christmas, the latest figures have shown.
According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC)-KPMG retail sales monitor, UK retail sales were up 0.7% on a like-for-like basis, down from a 3.4% gain last September.
BRC director general Helen Dickinson said there was "strong demand for children's footwear and clothing, benefiting from the back-to-school period".
Online sales were the stand-out performer, with online sales of non-food products in September growing 13.4% year-on-year. Without the contribution of online, clothing and footwear sales would have declined in September, the BRC said.
"The BRC-KPMG data shows that while total retail sales have continued to grow this month, it has been the weakest growth so far this year if you exclude Easter distortions," Dickinson said.
David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, added: "These figures are a reality check and will make retailers nervous as we enter the run-up to Christmas. Unseasonably warm weather stifled sales of autumn and winter collections in September and the recovery in home related items flattened.
"Consumers are still cautious about spending and are reluctant to restock their wardrobes with winter woollies until the weather cools."
"The stark fact is the retail recovery remains fragile and in the lead up to Christmas retailers, who are generally carrying less stock than in prior years, will need to manage promotional activity carefully to maintain margins," he noted.
Meanwhile, Conlumino analyst Neil Saunders explained that clothing retailers suffered when warm and humid weather in the month coincided with autumn and early winter stock arriving in stores.
"This tells us something interesting about the consumer psyche: while many people do have the capacity to spend, large numbers are reluctant to do so unless they feel a real need or justification.
"Before the downturn it is likely many consumers would have been willing to invest in a new coat in anticipation of colder weather to come; nowadays attitudes have hardened and significant numbers will only buy if and when the need arises.
"This change, a switch to a slightly more hand-to-mouth pattern of purchasing if you will, ultimately means retail growth rates are much chopper and leaves retailers far more exposed to the vagaries of the weather than they once were."
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