UK retail sales drop, outlook weak for Christmas shopping

Tuesday, 06 December 2011 09:04

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has released its figures for sales in November, which show a gloomy situation on the high street as consumers continue to watch their spending.

It found that sales were only up by 0.7 per cent, the weakest growth since May and a particularly low statistic given that Christmas is on the way.

On a like-for-like basis, transactions fell by 1.6 per cent. Even sales over the internet and telephone grew at their weakest levels since March at 8.6 per cent.

The mild weather this autumn was blamed for a decline in the buying of goods like winter jumpers and footwear, but the BRC's director-general Stephen Robertson said shoppers are just not hitting the high streets as they once did.

"There's a worrying lack of cheer in these figures. The weakest increase in sales for six months suggests consumers are keeping a tight rein on their spending … Consumers are not quite in the Christmas mindset yet," he added.

Mr Robertson suggested retailers may be hoping that Britons are planning to splash out using savings this month.

 IHS Global Insight's Howard Archer said stores are "under serious pressure" as the normal shopping season reaches its climax.

"Retailers certainly cannot rely on a late surge in Christmas spending given the squeeze on consumers' finances and very low confidence," he warned.

Mr Archer added that the BRC figures could suggest the UK will head back into recession, or at the very least, paint a pessimistic picture for consumer spending for some time to come.

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