Retailers’ sales were dampened by wet weather last month, but a boost from the upcoming Rugby World Cup is set to kick worries into touch.
According to the British Retail Consortium UK, retail sales fell one per cent on a like-for-like basis in August compared with a 1.3 per cent rise this time last year. Total sales were up 0.1 per cent against a 2.7 per cent rise last August.
Food sales were a bright spot rising 0.3 per cent in the three months to August but non-food sales dropped during the month for the first time since August last year.
The BRC said the fall of the bank holiday into September this year had distorted the figures of back-to-school categories such as clothing, footwear and stationery – which all experienced declines.
Online non-food sales also suffered growing 6.5 per cent in August compared with a year earlier when they had grown by 19.8 per cent. This was, the BRC said, the slowest growth registered since April 2013.
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“There was better news for food sales this August with a clear improvement compared with July. This, coupled with a positive twelve month average for the first time since August of last year, suggests there may be cause for optimism for food sales following a prolonged period of stagnation,” said Helen Dickinson, director general of the BRC.
“While non-food sales over the last three months are up three per cent overall, they were down in August. However the figures were likely distorted by the fact that they do not include the bank holiday which will be accounted for in the September period this year. At this time of the year parents are busily shopping for back-to-school essentials like clothes, footwear and stationery and those sales will peak later this year.
“Large ticket item categories like furniture and household appliances also experienced a decline in sales, again likely affected by the bank holiday distortion. Retailers will hope to recoup that sales deficit in September and to start feeling the effect of higher real wages.”
David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said: “As the summer bank holiday fell a week later this year, sales were pushed into September meaning top-line trends for August were inevitably dampened along with the weather versus 2014. Overall, August sales were down with fashion and footwear hit particularly hard as families delayed back-to-school purchases and wet weather deferred the impetus to shop.
“Furniture spending also fell due to the timing of the bank holiday. The grocers however, fared slightly better, with total food sales showing a positive direction of travel over the three months from June. September sales will get a shot in the arm from the bank holiday and the comradery of the Rugby World Cup. However, the fashion world will be hoping that last year’s ‘Indian summer’ does not repeat itself, resulting in heavy discounting to move seasonal items.”
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