Retail sales in the UK have fallen for the second consecutive month, according to the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium. It is the first time that sales have fallen for two months in a row since 1995.
The figures show that total sales in November were down 0.4% with like-for-like sales, excluding new store openings and closures, down 2.6% compared to the same period last year.
The BRC says it is the sixth month consecutive month of decline in like-for-like sales, but it is the first time since January 1995 that total sales have fallen in consecutive months.
Food and drink was the only sector to show an increase in sales compared to last year, while heavy discounting means that sales of clothing and footwear, furniture and big-ticket homewares fell further below last year.
In a statement, the BRC says: “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.”
The consortium says it now hopes the cut in VAT from 17.5% to 15% will help to lift sales.
Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG, who conducted the survey with the BRC, says: “There is little doubt that Christmas will arrive late for many retailers, leaving them with a very nerve-wracking couple of weeks to come,”
Stephen Robertson, the BRC director-general, adds: “The numbers speak for themselves – these are clearly tough times.”