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Retail sales see strongest growth in 13 months

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UK retail sales values grew 1.9 per cent on a like-for-like (LFL) basis last month, as consumers braved wintry weather to deliver the strongest sales growth in 13 months, figures released today reveal.

In January, total sales rose three per cent, the highest total sales growth since September 2012 as shoppers returned to the high street after a disappointing Christmas trading period.

Last month, LFL sales increased by just 0.3 per cent while total sales edged up 1.5 per cent in what was described as “a flat end to a flat year”, though today’s British Retail Consortium (BRC)-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor reported an encouraging start to 2013.

“After a fairly subdued December, these results are sure to lift spirits for many,” said Helen Dickinson, Director-General of the BRC.

“People were tempted out by offers and promotions but also treated themselves to full-price and premium products early in January, particularly must-have technology items.

“These factors, coupled with recovering consumer confidence, have added up to a more successful January than we saw last year.”

Last month, consumer confidence in Britain’s general economic situation rose three points to -26 while the climate for making major purchases also saw an improvement over the period.

Sales suffered minimally during the short-lived cold snap, Dickinson said, with clothing sales proving disappointing though footwear sales grew thanks to a “boots boost” during the snow.

Ongoing promotional activities from top grocers saw food sales grow, triggering the first acceleration in food’s three month growth rate since last July, while online sales surged 10.1 per cent compared with the same period a year earlier as experts warn of a migration online following recent administrations.

“While technology advances may have hastened the demise of HMV, Blockbuster and Jessops, many retailers will look back at the last two months with pride after implementing successful seasonal campaigns where they have served the customer well,” explained David McCorquodale, Head of Retail at KPMG.

“Sales are only one side of the equation and time will soon reveal the true cost of the promotions and margin squeezes used to drive these sales.

“However, it is encouraging to see such positive results in what is traditionally a challenging month.

“January’s sales figures will give retailers reasons to be cheerful as like-for-like sales achieved the highest increase seen since December 2011.

“It’s a strong start to what is anticipated to be a tough year for the sector.”

Published on Tuesday 05 February by Editorial Assistant

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