Slow start for re­tail sales in ‘golden quar­ter’ as cus­tomers show cau­tion

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - News - BY VICKY SHAW

THE “all-im­por­tant golden quar­ter” for re­tail sales has got off to a fairly flat start as cau­tious con­sumer spend­ing con­tin­ues into the fi­nal three months of 2018, a re­port has found.

Oc­to­ber marked the start of the golden quar­ter — the last three months of the year when some re­tail­ers earn the ma­jor­ity of their prof­its as shop­pers stock up for Christ­mas.

But the British Re­tail Con­sor­tium-kpmg re­tail sales mon­i­tor found that in Oc­to­ber, to­tal re­tail sales in­creased by 1.3% year-onyear across the UK.

On a like-for-like ba­sis, re­tail sales in­creased by 0.1% from Oc­to­ber, 2017.

Con­sumer cau­tion and the an­tic­i­pa­tion that there may be bet­ter deals avail­able dur­ing shop­ping bo­nan­zas such as Black Fri­day closer to Christ­mas may have damp­ened de­mand, it was sug­gested.

Paul Martin, UK head of re­tail at KPMG, said: “Oc­to­ber kicks off the all-im­por­tant golden quar­ter, with some re­tail­ers earn­ing the ma­jor­ity of their an­nual prof­its in these months alone.

“But with Oc­to­ber’s like-for-like sales flatlin­ing at 0.1%, it was a bit of a non-starter.”

Mr Martin con­tin­ued: “Gro­cery sales — which have been a ray of light — ac­tu­ally showed signs of re­straint.

“How­ever, cloth­ing sales were more promis­ing, with the colder weather to­wards the end of the month prompt­ing a wardrobe re­think.”

He­len Dick­in­son, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the BRC, said: “Sales in Oc­to­ber saw only a slight uplift on the pre­vi­ous year, as cau­tious con­sumer spend­ing con­tin­ues into the fi­nal quar­ter of the year.

“Brighter weather and the an­tic­i­pa­tion of bet­ter deals in the Black Fri­day Novem­ber sales have damp­ened de­mand for dis­cre­tionary pur­chases.”

She added: “Fur­ther­more, the very real pos­si­bil­ity of a no-deal Brexit presents a huge chal­lenge for re­tail­ers, who must con­tend with the prospect of higher im­port prices, and fur­ther drops to con­sumer de­mand.”

Mean­while, a sep­a­rate re­port from Bar­clay­card said con­sumer spend­ing did see a boost from the ‘ex­pe­ri­ence’ econ­omy in Oc­to­ber, in­clud­ing spend­ing on con­cert and cinema tick­ets.

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