Mixed results for retailers as sales rise
RETAIL figures for August will today reveal a mixture of good and bad news, with total sales up 2.2 per cent on the year before but like-for-like sales down 0.1 per cent.
Total sales, which includes revenue from extra retail space added since last August, hint at an increase in consumer and retailer confidence.
But the like-for-like drop is worrying, especially as last August was a poor month because of bad weather.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC), which released the figures today, had expected to see softer performance compared to July. The consensus forecast was for like-for-like retail sales to rise by 1.4 per cent year-on-year in August.
The weaker figure, which comes after growth in July on the back of good weather and the summer sales, could trigger renewed concerns over the health of the consumer.
Consumer spending accounts for about 65 per cent of GDP but there is now uncertainty about its strength in the future.
Food sales continued to do better than discretionary non-food items. In the three months to August, food sales rose 3.8 per cent on a like-for-like basis while non-food fell by 0.7 per cent. Clothing and footwear weakened further, and homeware and furniture sales fell back below the levels that were seen a year earlier.
Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC, said: “The stronger figures of June and July haven’t been sustained. It’s clear the deceptively good sales growth of those months was due to summer sun and price cuts – not any major revival in how customers are feeling. What spending we now have is all about value and essentials.”
He also warned: “As we head into autumn, we must not make too much of any positive sales growth because the comparison will be with very weak figures a year ago when total sales growth dipped below zero.”