August slowest month for UK retail sales

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The British Retail Consortium / KPMG Sales Monitor has recorded its lowest figures since November – with the exception of the March results, which were distorted by the timing of Easter. It is also the first time this year that sales growth slipped below 2%.

Like-for-like sales increased by 1.7% in the year to August, compared with 2.2% increase year-on-year in July. The rate of growth in total sales slowed from 4.7% in July to 4.3% in August.

The three-month trend rates of growth continued to slow from 5.2% to 4.8% for total sales, and from 2.7% to 2.3% for like-for-like sales.
• These were weak growth figures from a low base, as August 1999 was also a disappointing month.
• The main problems reported were lack of footfall and severe price deflation.
• Internet shopping and factory outlets were two of the better performing formats during August.

Bridget Rosewell, chief economic adviser to British Retail Consortium (BRC), said: “We will need to see a strong recovery in retail sales in the autumn if the renewed momentum in sales which started in 1999 is not to peter out. While this month’s figures may be a blip, a further month of weak results would suggest that growth rates have peaked at well below the performance of the previous high point in 1997. The economy may well be slowing.”

Bill Moyes, director general of BRC, commented: “This was a disappointing month. Customers appeared to be thin on the ground, and those who were still shopping had to be tempted by promotions and the continuation of summer sales. Retailers will be hoping that customers return from holiday ready to spend.”

The August monitor covers four weeks from 30 July to 26 August and provides the most up-to-date reflection of recent retail performance.

KPMG

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