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Retailers brace for ‘critical’ Christmas

Despite a 3.7% uplift in total like-for-like sales in October, retailers face additional obstacles this Christmas, including on-going political and economic sagas.

This is according to the latest monthly BDO high street sales tracker, which revealed that total non-store sales rose by 17.4% last month, and in-store sales by 0.7%.

Fashion, meanwhile, benefited from a 4.9% rise in like-for-like sales in October, with three out of the four weeks having recorded positive results. The sector has had positive results for nine out of the ten months so far this year.

The monthly tracker also showed that sales were much higher in the beginning of the month – up 7.8% year on year – thanks to early autumn discounting, compared to the end of the month when Brexit and talks of an election took a toll. This saw total like-for-likes fall by 2.5% year on year in the final week of October.

Footwall was down overall, but the last week saw the biggest drop of 5.3%. The high street suffered the most, followed by shopping centres and then retail parks.

The report said: “Seasonal promotions provided a measure of success for retailers in October.

“While growth in like-for-like sales this month came off poor sales last year, any up tick will be welcome as retailers look to allay concerns around the trading environment in the run up to Christmas.

“The relatively auspicious start to October, however, came to a grinding halt in the final week of the month when the combination of poor weather, the reality of another Brexit extension, and a December election sunk in across the country.

“This holiday trading period was already expected to be critical for retailers relying on margin squeezing tactics to tempt shoppers. There are now additional obstacles to be navigated, and the fear will be that October’s results provide an indication of just how sensitive consumers could be to the extended political drama.”

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