BRC cautiously welcomes January retail sales uptick

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January retail sales
// UK retail sales increased by 2.2% in January, against an increase of 1.4% last year
// Sales increased by 1.8% on a like-for-like basis from January 2018
// Online sales of non-food products climbed 5.4% in January

UK retail sales enjoyed positive growth throughout January, but experts welcomed this with caution amid fears the momentum would not continue thanks to continuing uncertainty around Brexit and dwindling consumer confidence.

Retail sales increased by 2.2 per cent in January against an increase of 1.4 per cent in the same month last year, marking the highest growth since June, according to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.

On a like-for-like basis, retail sales increased by 1.8 per cent from January 2018, when they had increased 0.6 per cent from the preceding year.

Over the three months to January, in-store sales of non-food items declined by 2.6 per cent on a total basis and 3.2 per cent on a like-for-like basis.

Meanwhile, food sales increased by 1.3 per cent on a like-for-like basis and 2.4 per cent on a total basis, the highest since September.

BRC also found that non-food retail sales in the UK decreased by 0.8 per cent on a like-for-like basis and 0.4 per cent on a total basis.

This is below the 12-month total average decrease of 0.2 per cent.

Online sales of non-food products did well as they grew by 5.4 per cent in January, against a growth of 5.3 per cent in January 2018.

“There was a welcome return to growth this month after December’s disappointing sales figures,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.

“But while retail discounts helped tempt cautious consumers, there is no guarantee this momentum will continue after the sales have finished.

“And it will not just be brick-and-mortar stores looking nervously to the future, as online sales continued to grow below the long term trend.

“Furthermore, the risk of a disruptive no-deal Brexit could see these fortunes reversed.

“Unless the government want to see well-known brands disappearing from our high streets in 2019, they should work with their colleagues in parliament to find a solution that avoids the shock of a no deal Brexit on 29 March and removes the risks to UK consumers.”

Meanwhile, KPMG UK head of retail Paul Martin said: “Following the worst December trading performance in a decade, January brought a welcome improvement with total retail sales up 2.2 per cent.”

“Having said that, this increase points more to British shoppers’ obsession of bagging a bargain and price inflation, rather than any real improvement, and these peaks and troughs continue to leave retailers feeling increasingly anxious.”

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