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Non-food sales dent retail figures

Retailers confirmed another bleak month of trading today amid a continued squeeze on those firms selling clothing, furniture and electrical goods.

In a report showing contrasting fortunes for food and non-food retailers, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said sales were down 0.6% on a like-for-like basis in August compared with the same month a year ago.

Poor consumer confidence and high inflation were blamed for the lacklustre performance, with the riots in the early part of the month "not widespread or prolonged enough" to have a significant impact on the sales figures.

Food sales growth was similar to the level seen in July but the BRC said non-food sales fell further below their year ago level, with footwear and homewares showing the largest declines despite further promotions.

Helen Dickinson, head of retail at accountancy firm KPMG, which helped compile the survey, added: "The weaker sectors are really struggling.

"For non-food, the picture is disheartening with one of the worst monthly results of the year thus far."

Clothing sales were slightly below a year ago as retailers continued to see shoppers focus on essentials and promotion-driven items, while many people who bought summer clothing during April's heatwave were reluctant to add to their wardrobes in August.

In electrical departments, sales were little changed and largely driven by replacement purchases, although the BRC said laptops and tablet computers sold well ahead of the return to school or college.

In the furniture sector demand for big tickets items such as fitted kitchens and bathrooms again suffered as people put off major purchases.

August's food and drink sales had a good start but tailed off as the month wore on, with the coolest summer for 20 years and faltering global stock markets impacting on shopper confidence.

The BRC added that internet, mail order and phone sales picked up in August after a period of slower growth earlier in the year.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: "Consumers are more and more comfortable using the internet to compare prices and it seems a higher number of online visits are being translated into sales.

"It's still the case that customers are motivated by value and are seeking out bargains and discounts."

Source : Graeme Evans – The Independent

05 September 2011
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