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UK retail sales growth slows as demand subsides

UK retail sales growth slowed in August as demand unleashed after the end of lockdowns began to fizzle out, industry figures showed.
Total sales rose 3% compared with 3.9% a year earlier and less than half the 6.9% rate over the past three months, according to a British Retail Consortium/KPMG survey. Compared with August 2019 total sales rose 8.9%.

In-store on-food sales rose 23.7% in the three months to August but sales were down 3.5% from two years earlier. Sales of clothing rose strongly as people returned to offices and went to social events.

Food sales rose 2.9% over three months and 1.9% on a like-for-like basis – well below the 12-month average of 14.4% as consumers ate and drink out after restrictions were eased. Total online sales fell 2.5% from a year earlier as stores reopened.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “As post-lockdown pent-up demand has softened, the growth in retail sales we have seen over the past few months slowed for August. Nonetheless, we still saw growth above pre-pandemic levels, as people returned to stores in greater numbers. With wedding season in full swing and workers gradually returning to the office, formalwear was a strong performer.”

KPMG said growth was likely to be muted with retailers facing multiple challenges including inflation curbing consumers’ spending power and households spend on leisure, entertainment and travel. There is also a post-Brexit shortage of workers and supply chain holdups.

Don Williams, a partner at KPMG, said: “Retailers will be pinning their hopes on a more predictable normal with white collar workers returning to city centres in greater numbers from this month and a buoyant Christmas fuelled by some of the savings that consumers have made. Nonetheless, successful retailers will have to work very hard to ensure the right availability of the right product to satisfy the requirements of an ever more demanding customer.”

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