Analysts on Tuesday provided UK clothing and footwear retailers struggling with low profit margins some good news when they predicted price falls of just 1.5 per cent this year compared to five per cent in 2002.

But experts at Experian Business Strategies offset that welcome outlook with a warning consumer spending on apparel and shoes is unlikely to maintain last year's momentum.

They expect the industry to experience a 2.4 per cent rise in sales this year versus a seven per cent rise in 2002. In volume terms, the rise is seen at 3.9 per cent versus 12.7 per cent.

Spokeswoman Melanie Lansbury commented: "Overall UK consumer spending growth is likely to be down by around a fifth this year to 3.8 per cent by value, compared with 4.5 per cent last year.

"Next year, consumer spending growth is expected to fall still further 3.3 per cent, down by about a quarter on 2002.

"This reflects the effects of the current economic climate, almost stagnant jobs growth and thinner pay packets resulting from the increase in National Insurance charges earlier this year."