High street sales up in August as garden centres enjoy end of month boost

Covering the four weeks 30 July - 26 August 2017, UK retail sales increased by 1.3% on a like-for-like basis from August 2016, when they had decreased 0.9% from the preceding year.

On a total basis, sales rose 2.4% in August, against a decline of 0.3% in August 2016, which had been the poorest performance of the year. This is the strongest growth since Easter, above the 3-month and 12-month averages of 1.9% and 1.6% respectively.

Over the three-months to August, Non-Food retail sales in the UK increased 0.6% on a like-for-like basis and 0.9% on a total basis, above the 12-month Total average growth of 0.6%.

Garden centres reported a pick up at the end of the month after poorer weather at the start of August.

Buckingham Garden Centre's Chris Day said: "We've put a little bit back on from the atrocious weather at the beginning of the month." He said plants were slightly up, as was catering but everything else was "flat". Roses kept their momentum, as did veg plants and bedding.

Longacres' Mike Ainley said sales were 40% up on last August's bank holiday thanks to a heatwave, which meant that the summer finished on a high for Britain's biggest garden centre.

JTF senior buyer Gez Smith said: "Bank holiday week was good for sales; with the Friday to Bank Holiday Monday being particularly strong versus the previous year."

John Lewis saw Outdoor Living up 8.5% in the week to September 2.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: "August provided a welcome pick-up in retail sales across channels, with non-food returning to growth as shoppers’ attentions turned to homewares, autumn clothing ranges and the new school term.

"However, these figures tell a less positive story about the health of consumer spending than it might seem at first glance. Non-food sales have only just recovered to levels seen two years ago, after a dismal August in 2016; while strong figures for food are largely the result of rising prices, leaving growth in volume terms weaker than last year.

"Stark challenges lurk around the corner for the retail industry. Purchasing decisions are very much dictated by a shrinking pool of discretionary consumer spend, with the amount of money in people’s pockets set to be dented by inflation and statutory rises in employee pension contributions in a few months’ time. It’s therefore crucial to protect consumers wherever possible from further cost pressures. For Government, this includes ensuring continued choice and availability of affordable, quality products for shoppers post-Brexit, by securing a strong deal on customs and tariff-free trade with the EU."

KPMG retail partner Don Williams, Retail Partner said: "Growth in home improvement sales – including furniture – point to the influence of staycations, although it could also be that home furnishing retailers are not having to compete with the likes of the Olympics for attention this year.

"Retailers have managed to achieve stronger than expected growth, however adding to this could be the fact that consumers appear to be turning a blind eye to the potential crush on spending power to come. The industry now needs to overcome further devaluation of the pound and the increased costs therein."


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