YEAR-on-year growth in the value of UK retail sales slowed dramatically between September and October, according to industry figures today which point to another tough festive period for the high street.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) figures show the total value of sales in October was up just 1.1% on the same month of last year. This represented a sharp slowdown from 3.4% year-on-year growth in September.
And, with the latest available figures showing annual UK consumer prices index inflation at 2.2% in September, the 1.1% rise in sales value in October recorded by the BRC points to a fall in volumes.
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Excluding April, which saw a 1% year-on-year drop in sales value because Easter fell earlier this year, the annual sales growth recorded by the BRC for last month was the worst since November 2011.
The BRC highlighted weaker year-on-year growth in the value of online sales of non-food items, a more discretionary element of consumer spending.
Food and drink sales value proved resilient last month, as did demand for footwear.
Stephen Robertson, director-general of the BRC, said: "Unfortunately, it looks like the modest sales revival we saw in September was something of a false dawn. October's online, non-food, results were especially poor – the last three months include the two weakest growth rates of the four years we've been collecting these figures."
He added: "The disappointing figures are a reminder of the difficult economic realities many are still facing. Falling consumer confidence means people are limiting spending to essential items and are cautious about committing to big-ticket and discretionary buying."
David McCorquodale, the Edinburgh-based head of accountancy firm and survey sponsor KPMG's retail practice, said: "The recession may officially be over but it will take a little longer for consumers to feel they can spend freely again.
"Retailers are holding less stock than a year ago and may choose to be cautious with pre-Christmas sales in order to protect margins.
"However, the disappointing sales figures for October indicate that winning a share of the Christmas wallet will be just as competitive over the next two months as it was last year."