By Maximilian Clarke

The British Retail Consortium have cautioned that this morning’s retail figures paint an overly rosy picture of the state of British retail that belies underlying challenges facing high streets across the UK.

The Office for National Statistics this morning (Thursday) showed a 0.9% rise during October and a 5.4% annual rise in UK retail.

The BRC, who gather their own well-regarded statistics, have observed a 1.5% increase in retail sales value over the last year which, with inflation at 5% for much of the year, represents retail decline.

Commenting, the BRC’s Director-General, Stephen Robertson, said: "Even food sales are suffering as people cut back or switch to cheaper brands in an effort to balance their household budgets. Stores are competing hard for what customer spending is available but consumers are overwhelmingly gloomy. Sales that happen come at the cost of reduced margins as retailers cut prices while facing higher business costs.

"We need the Chancellor to support households and businesses by holding back the costs he's responsible for. He should scrap the increases in fuel duty planned for next year and reduce the threatened 5.6 per cent business rates rise. At a time when youth unemployment has passed the one million mark, promoting growth in a sector where under 25s make up a third of the workforce should be a priority for the Government."

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