October retail sales slow to six-month low

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October retail sales

Retail sales growth slowed to a six-month low in October as retailers experienced a pre-Christmas lull and shoppers eased back on spending after a buoyant summer of sales.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), sales slid 0.5 per cent last month compared to September but on a year-on-year basis it grew 2.2 per cent.

However, ONS said the annual growth recorded in October is slower than the 3.3 per cent sales growth in September, and also the slowest growth rate since April.

Additionally, sales growth slowed to 0.4 per cent over the three months to October, compared to 2.3 per cent seen in previous quarter ending July.

ONS noted a three per cent drop in sales of household goods after a strong August and September, while year-on-year growth in fuel sales was the weakest since March 2017.

“Retail sales slowed after a buoyant summer with the mild autumn hitting winter clothes sales,” ONS head of retail sales Rhian Murphy said.

“Household goods sales also fell in October following two consecutive months of strong home improvements sales.

“Consumers chose to purchase goods from many stores’ websites as online sales continued to increase.”

Separate figures the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and Barclaycard showed households reining in their spending as the summer ended, suggesting that some shoppers were either being more cautious or waiting for Black Friday bargains or Christmas shopping.

Deloitte head of retail Ian Geddes said: “These figures are not surprising and reflect a clear slowdown in consumer momentum since the summer.

“Consumers, concerned about their levels of disposable income and debt, are being cautious about how they spend their money.

“This is creating a highly competitive environment for retailers, who are faced with what looks set to be a very tough final quarter of 2018.

“While notwithstanding the fact that consumers have a history of surprising the market at Christmas, there is little reason to feel overly positive about the short-term outlook.”

BRC head of insights Rachel Lund said: “After a summer of spending, consumers moderated their purchasing behaviour ahead of the festive period.

“With little growth in real incomes over the past year discretionary spending has remained under considerable pressure.

“Brighter weather and the anticipation of Black Friday gave shoppers little cause to splash out the month.

“Retailers will be hoping that October is not the bell-weather for the golden quarter.”

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