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Retail sales up in January
Feb '08
UK retail sales rose 2.6%% on a like-for-like basis, compared with January 2007, when sales were up 3.1% compared with a weak January 2006.

The three-month trend rate of growth rose to 1.5% from 0.8% in December for like-for-like sales, and to 3.7% from 2.8% for total sales, reflecting the continuing growth of retail space.

Food sales picked up after slowing in December. Clothing sales were down on a year ago for the fourth month in a row, despite aggressive discounting. Homewares and furniture showed a modest improvement but remained difficult. Health and beauty picked up but did not regain last summer's strength.

Consumer confidence has fallen further and people are particularly wary of committing to major purchases. Consumers continue to be very price-sensitive with sales discount-driven.

Stephen Robertson, Director General, British Retail Consortium:
“Following three months of weak year-on-year growth, this appears to be significantly better but the figures don't mean consumer confidence is reviving yet. The headline results conceal a mixed picture.

“New Year home updating helped sales of large furniture and flooring but retailers' margins were hit as it took heavy discounting to release pent-up customer demand. Meanwhile, despite the January sales, clothing sales were down on a year ago. “Many retailers will be glad the boost from Valentine's Day is followed rapidly this year by Mothering Sunday and an early Easter.”

Helen Dickinson, Head of Retail, KPMG:
“While the 'doom-mongers' may be temporarily silenced by this month's results, it's certainly too early to draw any conclusions about how the rest of the year will pan out. The growth of 4.9% in total and 2.6% in like-for-like sales was heavily skewed by a strong performance in week one, as January sales absorbed demand carried over from a poor December, which then deteriorated as the month progressed.

Another strong performance from food shows retailers are reluctantly passing on some price inflation to the consumer, whereas clothing, particularly women's, continues to underperform.”

British Retail Consortium

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