October enjoyed the best retail sales growth for seven years, according to the British Retail Consortium.
Values rose 3.8% on a like-for-like basis from October 2008, when sales fell 2.2% as financial turmoil hit consumer confidence. On a total basis, sales rose 5.9% against a 0.1% decline in October 2008.
Non-food non-store sales – via the internet, mail order and phone – did particularly well, being 18.0% higher than a year ago compared with 11.9% in September. These sales continued to outpace store sales but the expansion is from a very low base, as non-food non-store sales account for only about 4% of total retail sales.
Sharon Hardiman, head of non-store retailing at BRC, said: “The third best sales growth this year in online and mail order sales of non-food goods suggests the Royal Mail strike didn’t hit confidence in this form of shopping, as retailers assured customers other delivery options were being used.”
Meanwhile, the consortium’s director general Stephen Robertson described the results as “encouraging – the best like-for-like and total October sales growth since 2002. They are, however, compared to dreadful figures last year when the final three months were all negative.
“Throughout the recession food has consistently been one of the best-performing sectors. But food sales growth has fallen to its lowest for 19 months with food inflation tumbling since this spring. By contrast, most non-food sectors were well up on last year.
“With less than 50 days to go before Christmas, retailers will be hoping improved consumer confidence will be sustained during the festive period and beyond. Shops have already started to battle it out for customers with a string of promotions and discounts.”
But he warned: “2010 has many uncertainties, including the likelihood of rising unemployment and tax increases.”