October offers retailers little relief as sales remain cautious


October offered retailers little relief as sales growth across sectors remained lacklustre as shoppers hold off on spending until the upcoming discount season.

According to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, retail sales edged up just 0.1 per cent year-on-year in the four weeks to October 27, though this was a marked improvement on the one per cent drop in October 2017.

Total sales also increased by 1.3 per cent, up from a 0.2 per cent increase a year prior, but just below the 12-month average of 1.4 per cent growth.

In the three months to October, in-store non-food sales dropped 3.3 per cent on a like-for-like basis while food sales jumped 1.2 per cent aided by sales in the build up to Halloween.

Online sales continued to perform well, seeing a 7.6 per cent growth in non-food sales during the period, comfortably above both the three month and yearly averages.

“Overall, retail sales growth remains low by historical standards,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.

“Sales in October saw only a slight uplift on the previous year, as cautious consumer spending continues into the final quarter of the year.

“Brighter weather and the anticipation of better deals in the Black Friday November sales have dampened demand for discretionary purchases.

“Moreover, low real wage growth over an extended period has left consumers with less money in their pocket, squeezing retailers’ margins in the face of higher costs.”

KPMG’s UK head of retail Paul Martin added: “October kicks off the all-important golden quarter, with some retailers earning the majority of their annual profits in these months alone.

“But with October’s like-for-like sales flat lining at 0.1 per cent, it was a bit of a non-starter.

“Demand was mainly dampened by continued economic uncertainty, as well as the anticipation for the deep discounting ahead – especially now that Black Friday weekend has become such a permanent feature.”

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