Retail sales hit six-year high in July

Hot weather, British sporting success and the feel-good factor generated by the birth of the Royal Baby helped breathe life into the high street in July with sales hitting a six-year high.  

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Sales from shops open for a year or more increased 2.2 per cent on July 2012, according to the British Retail Consortium. Accounting for inflation and including new stores opened in the last 12 months, sales increased 4.4 per cent, the steepest rise in July sales since 2006.

Food sales drove the growth as Britons stocked up on ingredients for BBQs, while sales of summer clothes spurred by promotional activity increased sharply, the BRC says.

The feel-good factor generated by Andy Murray’s Wimbledon win, the British Lions’ success against Australia and England’s victories in the Ashes series as well as marketing-fuelled shopping to mark the birth of Prince George of Cambridge were also credited for generating growth.

Online sales, however, suffered because of the hot weather as shoppers spent more time outside. Online sales increased 7.9 per cent year on year, half the growth rate, 15.6 per cent, reported in July 2012.

Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, says: “While we know that the picture is still variable and the high street in particular continues to face considerable challenges, these positive results will be welcomed in town centres around the country that depend so much on retailers performing well.”

Retail analysts Conlumino also struck a note of caution, warning the “exceptional” circumstances that helped lift sales in July were unlikely to be repeated and the economic headwinds still pose great challenges to retailers.

It adds in a note: “When put in context the July numbers are a jumble of some natural uplift due to a strengthening economy and a little boost provided by some more temporary factors, which are unlikely to be sustained across the rest of the year.

“For the sake of objectivity, it is always important to take a complete view of the economic picture; and doing so reveals that, unlike the July sky, things are not completely cloudless. Indeed, the government’s Public Sector Net Borrowing figures for the month were, at £12.4bn, rather poor and above the requirement of the previous year. Equally, the Office of Budget Responsibility’s July report was grim, noting that it is now inevitable that the government needs to make further cuts as public spending remains on an unsustainable path.”

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