U.K. November Retail Sales Fall Most in Six Months, BRC Says

U.K. retail sales fell the most in six months in November as the weaker economic outlook prompted Britons to curtail spending, according to the British Retail Consortium.

Sales at stores open at least 12 months, measured by value, fell 1.6 percent from a year earlier, the biggest drop since May, the London-based trade group said in an e-mailed report today. Sales of winter clothing and footwear were hurt by mild weather in November and by consumers’ uncertainty over jobs and incomes, the BRC said.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said last week that Britain faces two extra years of austerity after the Office for Budget Responsibility slashed its growth projections, with more than 700,000 public-sector workers forecast to lose their jobs over the next six years. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said the same week that the U.K. may already be in recession.

“There’s a worrying lack of cheer in these figures,” Stephen Robertson, BRC director general, said in a statement. “The weakest increase in sales for six months suggests consumers are keeping a tight rein on their spending, despite Christmas being so near.”

The BRC report showed that in the three months through November, food sales rose 1.5 percent on the year on a like-for-like basis, while non-food sales fell 2.1 percent.

GfK NOP Ltd. said Nov. 30 that consumer confidence stayed close to its lowest level in more than 2 1/2 years in November. Inflation was 5 percent in October, more than twice the pace of wage growth.

“Consumers are not quite in the Christmas mindset yet,” Robertson said. “Poor consumer confidence and squeezed disposabe incomes are affecting all retail channels.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Svenja O’Donnell in London at sodonnell@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Craig Stirling at cstirling1@bloomberg.net

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