More misery for retailers as sales slip again

ONS figures paint a gloomy picture: sales grew by a decidedly flat 0.2% in June, down from 0.8% in July. Can things get any more depressing?

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
The Office for National Statistics has reported lousy figures for the retail market today, with sales (excluding petrol) rising by a very half-hearted 0.2% in July, down from 0.8% in June. Not only is that less than the 0.3% analysts had been expecting (and let’s face it, they’re hardly renowned as an optimistic bunch), but it’s also significantly less than the 0.6% increase predicted by the British Retail Consortium earlier this month. Ah, well: we suppose the only comfort is that none of it comes as much of a surprise…

In fact, given the other decidedly lacklustre economic indicators that have been reported over the last couple of weeks (inflation up to 4.4%, GDP growth down to 0.2%, unemployment up by 38,000), it was downright predictable. But that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. And it probably doesn’t help that more figures out today showed mortgage lending also fell last month, by 1%, to £12.6bn. That’s 6% down on last year.

Which should go some way to explaining why people seem to have lost their passion for interior design: the number of sofas, cushions, curtains, rugs, etc etc purchased in July was 0.3% lower than in June – and 4.1% down on the year before. Clothing and footwear also fell by 0.3% month-on-month. On the bright side, food sales were up by 0.7%. Comfort-eating, presumably.

The list of retailers that have either closed their doors or dramatically downsized since the beginning of 2011 reads like a Who’s Who of the high street 10 years ago: among others, Jane Norman, Habitat, Oddbins, Mothercare, HMV and Thorntons. And the outlook for those just hanging on is also rather bleak: Today’s No Sh*t, Sherlock Award goes to RBS analyst Ross Walker, who pointed out that ‘consumers have got no money.’ Rather an understatement, we’d suggest.

Of course, with all those depressing economic indicators, the big question on retailers’ (and consumers’. And, er, everyone else’s) minds will be whether or not the economy is cannoning into the dreaded double-dip, or whether this is just a temporary lull in the recovery rought on by the twin crises in the Eurozone and the US. Whichever it is, don’t expect things to look up any time soon…

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