By Daniel Hunter
Data released by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has shown that UK retail sales values were up 1.5% on a like-for-like basis from September 2011, when they were up 0.3% on the preceding year. On a total basis, sales were up 3.4%, against a 2.5% rise in September 2011.
The recovery from last month was mainly driven by Clothing and Footwear, which saw its best growth since last Christmas, partly helped by the favourable weather. There were also some signs of revival in the Home and Furniture market.
Online sales picked up from August's record low ending the month on a strong note. However, on average, September — at 9.9% - remained weaker than this year's trend.
"After a poor summer for sales, this is a return to growth rates we've come to regard as relatively acceptable in these relentlessly tough times. The improvement has come from the weather and a change in the mindset of some customers," Stephen Robertson, Director General, British Retail Consortium, said.
"This September's colder conditions contrast sharply with the heatwave a year ago, giving clothing and footwear sales a major boost as shoppers stock up early on coats, boots and knitwear. Children's clothes and shoes did particularly well in September, partly because many people left back-to-school buying later this year as a result of competition for their time in August.
"It's not all good news - the on-going challenges in the housing market contributed to sales of home accessories falling at their fastest for three years - but there are signs that people are acclimatising to the new realities. Difficult has become the new norm. Customers are still cautious but less fearful than they were. The squeeze on disposable incomes has eased for some and, along with lots of discounts, left them feeling it's time to stop postponing spending. Retailers will be hoping this modest boost strengthens as Christmas approaches.
David McCorquodale, Head of Retail, KPMG, said: "After a turbulent year on the UK high street, September's sales figures bring much needed relief for retailers. The news that like-for-like sales rebounded to achieve the highest increase seen in 2012 may give many renewed heart as they enter the most important trading period of the year.
"September's surge in sales was driven primarily by customers buying winter woollies as the arrival of autumn/winter fashions heralded the end of an often wet summer and ‘back-to-school' drove increases in children's clothing and shoes.
"With the rent paid for the last quarter before Christmas and most seasonal orders now made, the bets for the final quarter have been placed. Retailers will now be hoping that the consumer finds some confidence for 2013 to drive sales for the next three months. If that doesn't happen there's a real risk that the retailers will be forced to discount their seasonal margins away."
Food & Drink — Joanne Denney-Finch, Chief Executive, IGD, said: "September's sales mirrored the changing weather. There was sun at the start, which helped produce the best food and grocery sales week of the month. But this was followed by heavy downpours and the worst September storms for 30 years, with sales tailing off as the month progressed.
"Shoppers have been on an ‘optimism rollercoaster' this year, feeling better about the future in the summer, but becoming more cautious as the nights draw in. Food companies will be hoping for milder weather through the rest of autumn and for themed events, such as Halloween, to help boost sales."
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