October dashes hopes of retail revival

October delivered disappointing shopper numbers and retail sales – leading the British Retail Consortium to describe the previous month’s improved figures as “something of a false dawn”.

October dashes hopes of retail revival

UK non-food retail footfall increased in September for the first time in 2012, according to the Retail Traffic Index compiled by Ipsos Retail Performance, but in October it fell 3% year-on-year and was down 1.2% on September.

London and the south east were most affected, with footfall down 4.4% year-on-year and 1.1% against September.

At the same time, figures released today by the BRC/KPMG sales monitor reveal the worst sales growth for 11 months. Retail sales values across both food and non-food were down 0.1% on a like-for-like basis from October 2011, when they were down 0.6% on the preceding year. On a total basis sales were up 1.1%, against a 1.5% rise in October 2011.

“Unfortunately it looks like the modest sales revival we saw in September was something of a false dawn,” said BRC director general Stephen Robertson. “Excluding April, hit by this year’s earlier Easter, October saw the worst sales growth since last November. And October’s poor performance wasn’t a one off. Year-to-date average growth hasn’t outpaced inflation, meaning overall sales volumes going backwards.

“Within that, October’s online non-food results were especially poor. The last three months now include the two weakest growth rates we’ve recorded in four years.”

He said falling consumer confidence meant people were limiting spending to essential items and were cautious about committing to big-ticket and discretionary buying.

Head of retail intelligence at Ipsos, Dr Tim Denison, added: “These remain tough times for consumers and retailers, and it looks like both will be travelling in the crawler lane for some time to come. Retailers will be hoping that recent improvements in market conditions will hold firm and that the weather does not disrupt shoppers from getting out as it has done in the past two years.

“As for consumers, tough times make people think more, and when they do so they become more conscious and questioning of their behaviour and more will challenge old habits. This is exactly what’s happening in the lives of shoppers at the moment and many are finding it quite cathartic. Feeling inwardly content with what they are now spending, and what they are spending it on, is very much part of the new normal.

“This [Christmas] extra effort will be spent on seeking out gifts thoughtfully rather than reactively as last minute emergencies.”

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