Blog: Leonie BarrieMay retail sales offer short-term respite

Leonie Barrie | 11 June 2012

Warmer weather at the end of May boosted sales of clothing and footwear at UK retailers during the month, according to new figures released last week. But commentators also warn the spending spree is only likely to offer short-term relief and will not overcome underlying difficulties such as declining consumer confidence and squeezed incomes.

The data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) showed UK retail sales values were up 1.3% on a like-for-like basis from May 2011. While women's wear had its best growth this year, wet weather in the previous month is likely to have created pent-up demand and is unlikely to mark a resurgence in consumer spending.

Separate research also showed price cutting on clothing and footwear in May contributed to deflation in non-food goods for the fourth month in a row.

The kick-off of the Euro 2012 European football championship tournament last week was accompanied by a warning from Europe's consumer watchdog that some team shirts contain harmful and toxic substances, including lead. The findings by BEUC, the umbrella group that represents national consumer organisations from 31 European countries, noted the Poland strip is so contaminated it should be "banned outright".

Another report suggests international cotton prices are likely to stay low for another year following forecasts for a second consecutive season of higher global stocks. The International Cotton Advisory Council (ICAC) says that by the end of July 2013, global cotton stocks are likely to represent 61% of consumption - making this the highest stocks-to-use ratio (a measure of supply) reached since 1998/99.

The clothing industry in Burma (Myanmar) also looks set to grow as the country once shunned by the West starts to reform. But there is still a long way to go if it is to become the new Asian outsourcer of choice.


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