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Retail sales log ‘decent’ increase in January

PUBLISHED: 08:40 06 February 2018 | UPDATED: 08:40 06 February 2018

Retail sales saw a year-on-year increase in January. Picture: Sonya Duncan

Retail sales saw a year-on-year increase in January. Picture: Sonya Duncan

ARCHANT EASTERN DAILY PRESS (01603) 772434

Retail experts have touted higher sales for the high street during the typically tough month of January.

Figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG showed like-for-like retail sales rose 0.6% in January, compared with a fall of 0.6% in 2017.

Total sales rose 1.4% in the month, after a paltry increase of 0.1% a year earlier.

Experts dubbed it a decent performance, as the post-Christmas period tends to be a struggle for high street retailers.

Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive, said: “The persisting tough trading environment played out at the start of the year with a mixed set of trading updates and subsequent announcements.

“Sales as well as profits are seemingly harder to come by.

“Against this challenging backdrop, 2018 didn’t have a bad start during what is traditionally a lean month, with sales creeping up in line with the year’s average.”

She said that the sector continued to struggle from “divided fortunes” for food and non-food sales.

British households are still in the midst of an income squeeze on the back of higher inflation and weaker wage growth, that has left consumers with less cash for non-essentials.

Food sales increased increase 2.9% on a like-for-like basis in the three months to January, while total sales rose 4.1% over the period.

In contrast, like-for-like non-food retail sales fell 1.2% and dropped 0.6% on a total basis, which is below the 12-month average decrease of 0.1% and marks the first 12-month average drop since September 2009.

Non-food sales fared better online, rising 5.3% in January - but that still fell short of the 8% growth booked in digital sales during the same month a year earlier.

In store, those sales fell 2.9% on a total basis in the three months to January, and 3.6% like-for-like.

“Clothing, however, bucked the winter trend for the non-food categories. Some retailers were able to scale back promotions, having shifted more of their stock during the festive sales than last year, and saw encouraging early demand for their new season ranges,” Ms Dickinson said.

“Overall though, the going remains bumpy as consumers are still seeing wages fall in real terms. Although inflation will ease a bit this year these pressures will remain.”

Separate figures from Barclaycard showed consumer spending jumped 3.9% year-on-year last month, propelled by a 4.1% rise in spending on everyday essentials.

Spending on non-essentials grew 3.8% but was down from 4.2% in December as clothing and travel logged weaker growth.

However, evenings out with family and friends drove a double-digit rise in pubs and restaurants – up 12.8% and 10.5%, respectively.

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