Gardening resists August retail sales decrease

On a total basis, sales declined 0.3 per cent, against a 0.1 per cent increase in August 2015, but gardening bucked the trend.

This is the weakest performance since September 2014, excluding Easter distortions. On a three-month basis, Total UK retail sales rose 0.6 per cent, half the rate of the 12-month average of 1.2 per cent.

On a three-month basis, total food sales increased 0.9 per cent, its best level since December 2013 excluding Easter distortions, ahead of the 12-month average of 0.3 per cent.

On a three-month basis, total non-food sales rose 0.4 per cent, a slower rate than the 12-month average of 1.9 per cent. The slowdown – affecting most non-food categories – was driven by lower footfall due to the warmer weather and is therefore likely to be short-lived, says BRC.

But the categories involving outdoor leisure activities – sport and camping, garden tools, BBQs… - were among the few to display good growth in August, added BRC.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: "A month of extraordinary achievement for Team GB certainly produced a feel-good effect and consumer confidence was up on July, but that generally didn’t translate into extra sales. Consumers were enticed towards leisure and outdoor activities rather than shopping, although food did post its strongest performance in more than two years; fuelled by demand for picnic, barbeque supplies and celebratory drinks."

The Garden Centre Association and HTA are yet to issue July or August figures, but individual garden centres says July and August say improved sales thanks to good weather.

Dickinson added: "Care should be taken in reading too much into August’s lacklustre performance. As we’ve seen in the last couple of months, data portending the health of the economy paint a volatile picture. The fact is that so far little has directly changed for the UK’s consumers as a result of the referendum, so it’s the pre-existing market dynamics that are still driving sales. The slowdown in real wage growth in the first half of 2016 and strong competition will continue to weigh on trend growth in total sales; whilst holiday timings, promotional and seasonal activity will contribute to fluctuations month on month."

KPMG retail head David McCorquodale said: "In contrast to July, August’s retail figures illustrate somewhat of a U-turn of retail fortunes. Like-for-like sales were down 0.9 per cent on this time last year - painting a disappointing picture given previous signs of encouragement.

"Sales of women’s fashions performed particularly poorly, despite widespread promotions. The warmer weather made it almost too hot to shop and dissuaded shoppers from looking at the newly arrived autumn products. Despite this, jewellery sales continued to benefit from international shoppers taking advantage of the weaker pound. Whilst for those at home, some of whom may have opted for a staycation given the exchange rate, the warmer weather put wine and barbeques firmly on the menu – much to the delight of food and drinks sellers.

"With the Bank holiday weekend and ‘back to school’ sales largely falling in next month’s figures, it’s unsurprising that children’s fashion and footwear haven’t yet experienced an uplift. Given the volatility of retail sales in the past few months, no doubt retailers will be hoping for a smoother ride in the lead up to Christmas."


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