U.K. retail sales climbed in November as higher food-price inflation pushed up values and cold weather boosted demand for clothing and footwear, the British Retail Consortium said.
Sales at stores open at least 12 months, measured by value, rose 0.7 percent from a year earlier, compared with a 0.8 percent gain in October, the London-based BRC said in an e-mailed statement today. Excluding the impact of a sales-tax increase in January, underlying volume sales growth is “virtually zero,” it said.
While the U.K. economy posted its strongest two consecutive quarters of growth in a decade this year, Britons are bracing for the biggest fiscal squeeze since World War II to tame the record budget deficit. Gfk NOP Ltd.’s index of consumer confidence fell to a four-month low in November.
“Customers are cutting back because they’re worried about prospects for their own jobs and personal finances,” Robertson said in the statement. “With the final run-up underway, Christmas performance is delicately poised.”
Sales of non-food items via the Internet, mail-order and phone companies increased 18 percent in November from a year earlier, the BRC said. In the three months through November, food sales jumped 2.2 percent on the year.
While snow and freezing temperatures currently sweeping across the U.K. have driven demand for outdoor clothing and knitwear, it also has “dramatically undermined sales” overall in the past ten days, the BRC said. Sales of non-food items dropped 0.5 percent in the three months through November on a like-for-like basis, the biggest decline since the quarter through August 2009, the group said.
“Retailers will be hoping disruption eases so that sales lost early in the month are made up over the next couple of weeks and not lost entirely,” Robertson said. “Booming internet sales alone are unlikely to make up sales shortfalls.”
The earliest widespread snowfall in the U.K. since 1993 has disrupted road, rail and air traffic, with very low temperatures likely to continue this week, according to the Met Office. Any boost to online sales as shoppers stay at home will be reflected in this month’s retail figures, Robertson said.
The BRC report, which is compiled in conjunction with accountancy firm KPMG LLP, measures changes in the actual value of retail sales and doesn’t adjust for price changes.