Retailers

Retail sales surprisingly strong in August

Figures released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) concerning retail sales in August have proved a pleasant surprise, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The data shows that the total value of sales (non-seasonally-adjusted) was up 3.4 per cent on August 2011; an improvement on July.

The BRC’s own Retail Sales Monitor, published two weeks ago, showed a total sales growth of 1.6 per cent; a figure that was down on July.

ONS’s figures suggest that sales growth was driven by food and clothing and footwear, partly as a result of the Olympic Games and also because of the sunshine boosting demand for party food and drink and sportswear. The figures also confirmed that online sales had slowed.

Director general of the BRC Stephen Robertson remarked: “The strength of these figures and the improving trend is a surprise. Results reported to us by retailers show that, while the Olympics were spectacular, they didn’t inspire the hoped-for retail rush, leaving August’s overall sales growth much weaker and down on July.

“The Games certainly produced a feel good effect but generally that didn’t translate into many extra sales, as people found sport more enticing than shopping. The ONS’s own evidence on the knock to online retail growth confirms our own findings that the Olympics were a big distraction from buying for many.

“Disposable incomes are still under immense pressure and conditions remain a huge challenge for customers and retailers, with few reasons for immediate optimism. “As the vital run-up to Christmas begins, retailers are still looking for a convincing revival in consumers’ confidence and willingness to spend.”

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