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Clothing retail sales down in 13 of last 14 months
Dec '08
•UK retail sales values fell 2.6% on a like-for-like basis, from November 2007, when they had risen 1.2%. Total sales were lower than a year ago, as in October. This was the first time since the survey began in January 1995 that sales declined for two consecutive months.

•Food and drink was the only sector to show sales up on a year ago. Despite extensive heavy discounting, clothing and footwear, furniture and big-ticket homewares fell further below year-earlier levels.

•Discounts and promotions continued but often failed to tempt customers unless they perceived value or really needed the product.

•Non-food non-store sales in November were 9.5% higher than a year ago. As with store sales, this was worse than in October, when sales were 16.6% up on a year ago.

Stephen Robertson, Director General, British Retail Consortium, said, “The numbers speak for themselves – these are clearly tough times. In the 14 years of this survey we have never recorded two consecutive months of total sales falls.

Like-for-like sales have now fallen in eight out of the last nine months. All sectors are down apart from food and drink. Retailers will be hoping that customers have been putting off Christmas shopping - not cancelling it."

“With money tight at the moment shoppers can take advantage of the extraordinary levels of deals, offers and promotions. The recent VAT and interest rate cuts may also provide some stimulation.”

Helen Dickinson, Head of Retail, KPMG, said, “The trend in retail sales continues in a downward direction, with food and drink being the only sector to see positive like-for-like sales growth.

There is little doubt that Christmas will arrive late for many retailers, leaving them with a very nerve-wracking couple of weeks to come. It's possible that November's figures have been negatively impacted by consumers delaying purchases in the last week of the month following the VAT announcement, while they waited for the change to be implemented.

However, even before this, there was a significant increase in promotional activity aimed at enticing consumers to spend. We are seeing a huge variation in how effective this is proving to be for individual retailers, which just highlights how volatile and challenging the market currently is.”

Non-food Non-Store Sales % change on a year ago 9.5. Sharon Hardiman, Head of Non-Store Retailing, BRC, said,: “Non-store retail sales are clearly not immune to the economic slowdown. While they are still outstripping traditional in-store sales, November's performance slowed considerably compared to the previous month's double digit result.

"This is not a case of online undermining the high-street. This sector is largely another route to customers for retail businesses who also have shops. And, while it's rapidly expanding, it still represents a small share of overall total retail sales.”

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