By Daniel Hunter
The UK's retail industry suffered a disappointing slump in August, according to the British Retail Consortium and KPMG.
Like-for-like sales, which exclude new stores, fell 1% compared with August 2014 when they had grown 1.3%. Including sales from new stores, sales were up 0.1%. Last year, total sales were up 2.7%.
In the three months to August, total food sales were up 0.3%, which prompted the twelve-month average total food growth to turn positive for the first time since August 2014. Non-Food sales declined in August, for the first time since August 2014.
The fall of the Bank Holiday into the September period this year distorted the figures of the back-to-school-sensitive categories, the BRC said. Clothing, footwear, stationery, furniture and household appliances all experienced declines.
There was even a huge slowing of typically strong online sales. Non-food product sales in the UK grew 6.5% in August versus a year earlier, when they had grown 19.8% and established the 2014 best performance. This was the slowest growth registered since April 2013. The Non-food online penetration rate was 17.2%, up from 16.3% in August 2014.
Helen Dickinson, Director General, British Retail Consortium, said: “There was better news for food sales this August with a clear improvement compared with July. This, coupled with a positive twelve month average for the first time since August of last year, suggests there may be cause for optimism for food sales following a prolonged period of stagnation.
“While non-food sales over the last three months are up three per cent overall, they were down in August. However the figures were likely distorted by the fact that they do not include the Bank Holiday which will be accounted for in the September period this year. At this time of the year parents are busily shopping for back-to-school essentials like clothes, footwear and stationery and those sales will peak later this year. Large ticket item categories like furniture and household appliances also experienced a decline in sales, again likely affected by the Bank Holiday distortion.
“Retailers will hope to recoup that sales deficit in September and to start feeling the effect of higher real wages.”