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Discounting drives January sales

Non-food like-for-like sales fell by 1.6% in January and clothing sales dipped by the lowest rate for months according to the British Retail Consortium.

Total retail sales rose by 1.1% on a like for like basis during the month - the best performance since May 2008. However this was driven by food sales.

Fashion sales saw the smallest year-on-year decline for several months but sales were largely driven by discounting. The British Retail Consortium said that shoppers had waited to buy bigger-ticket items like coats and dresses in the post-Christmas Sale. Casualwear outperformed formal wear and designer fashion sales held up for some retailers.

Footwear sales fell back after December’s modest uplift. Women’s footwear sales fell back by the biggest rate since April 2008. Men’s footwear sales showed a small gain, but again this was driven by heavy discounting. Kid’s footwear sales were up on last year, but the gain was at a smaller rate than in previous months.

Department stores had a good start to January because of post-Christmas Sales but trade slowed towards the end of the month.

Mail order and internet non-food sales rose 19.2% in January. The BRC said shoppers had taken advantage of the internet to find bargains in the post-Christmas Sales.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “These surprisingly good figures give some room for optimism. Overall sales growth turned positive and is higher than it’s been since last May. Food sales growth rose. Non-food sales fell more slowly suggesting January clearance deals released pent-up demand and customers started to spend on goods they’d been intending to buy for months.”   

However Robertson warned: “The fundamentals haven’t changed. Job fears are mounting. Consumer confidence is at record lows. It remains to be seen whether January’s discount driven growth was just a blip.”




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