UK retail sales climbed 1.3% on a like-for-like basis last month from August 2013, when they had increased 1.8% on the preceding year. On a total basis, sales were up 2.7%, against a 3.6% rise in August 2013. This is the best performance since January (excluding Easter distortions), according to the latest data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC)/KPMG.
The growth was driven by clothing and footwear, which reported its fastest rate since December 2011. Food was the worst performing category, with a new record low three-month average decline.
BRC director general Helen Dickinson said: “August has recorded the strongest growth in retail sales since January this year, excluding Easter distortions, accelerating to 2.7%. Retailers have pointed to the successful launch of their autumn fashion collections helped by the cooler weather, as well as a good response to marketing campaigns for back to school clothing. Furniture sales also did well as the strength of the housing market continues, although not as well as in July. On the other hand, consumers are still taking advantage of record low food inflation. The strength of the economy is not yet consistent across all areas of the country, and shop prices fell in August.
“For retailers the challenge in these circumstances is to ensure continued investment in digital innovation, the physical retail space and job creation. For our part, the BRC continues to engage with all the parties to look at fundamental reform of the business rates system in order to ease the costs of doing business to support the industry’s ability to serve its customers better and respond to transformational change.”
KPMG head of retail David McCorquodale added: “Back to school sales and the changing of the season saw fashion retailers put in a strong performance in August. Overall, it has been a very successful summer for non-food retailers, placing them on a firm footing for the autumn/winter trading period and the run up to Christmas.
“With autumn drawing in, the countdown to Christmas has now begun. This will be a true bellwether of consumer confidence. If shoppers feel secure enough in the future to spend, then retailers could be in for an enjoyable Christmas this year.”