UK retail sales falls to a six year low

The warm weather across the UK last month reduced the number of shoppers buying winter clothing, which pushed retail sales to its lowest level in almost six years.

According to a survey conducted by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG, like-for-like sales were down by 2.1 percent and total sales fell by 0.8 percent, the lowest level since December 2008 – apart from months affected by the timing of Easter.

Clothing suffered the most, posting the biggest decline in over two years. Footwear recorded the biggest decline since March last year.

Another factor that affected retail sales was food, which dropped by 0.2 percent.

Helen Dickinson, the director general of the British Retail Consortium, said:

“In September, we saw the lowest retail sales figures since December 2008, excluding Easter distortions. This can be attributed to a number of factors including the continuing decline in food sales. Furthermore, there was exceptionally low demand for items such as boots and coats, resulting in the lowest fashion sales performance since April 2012. However, demand for big-ticket items continues to be strong, with furniture outperforming all other categories.”

KPMG head of retail David McCorquodale said:

“After a bumper summer, this is a disappointing outcome for retailers and has undoubtedly reversed some of the sales gains made in August. However, if temperatures drop to a more seasonal level this cooler weather will quickly turn around retailers’ fortunes and help them to sell their autumn-winter ranges.

“The grocers had another challenging month, with further price cuts and promotions announced by most.”

Mr McCorquodale pointed out that the supermarket sector still has to tackle tough trading conditions, adding:

“With a rebasing of margins in the grocery sector throughout the year, this final quarter will see sales go to those who are most focussed on their customers.”

He said that attention will now be focused on how well products are sold in the Christmas period.

“One warm September doesn’t ruin a Christmas and retailers on the whole are on a firm footing as they enter the all-important final quarter.”