Olympics send retail sales off track

August is the worst month for retail sales this year, as Brits are too absorbed in the Olympic Games to shop.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

Britons may have rejoiced in a collective celebration during London 2012, but retailers failed to benefit from Team GB's success. August was one of the worst month for sales this year, with purchases at stores open more than a year down 0.4% on the same time a year ago, data from the British Retail Consortium showed.

'There's no evidence here of any Olympic boost to retail sales overall. Sadly, apart from April – distorted by Easter timings – August saw the worst sales growth this year,' the BRC's Stephen Robertson said.

Robertson's mournful message confirmed what many retailers complained about at the time - that people were staying at home watching the games instead of shopping. Sales of party food and drink did pick up during the month as people celebrated Team GB's best Olympic performance ever, but it was 'more than offset by a really weak performance for non-food goods,' the BRC said.

Even online sales failed to pick up, putting in the worst sales growth since the BRC started tracking internet sales four years ago. Some retailers said online activity was particularly thin in the evenings, when people were absorbed in major Olympic events.

Some might say this now makes Britain's chances of an economic recovery even more gloomy. The UK is currently in the longest double-dip recession since the 1950s, and the poor sales figures suggest consumers aren't willing to spend their way out of the recession just yet. But it's not unsurprising that August skewed the sales figures as the Olympics gripped not only that capital, but the rest of the country as well. The government has previously claimed that the Olympics would bring a feel-good factor that would bring longer term economic benefits, and it's too early to tell whether that has been the case.

Retailers will now hope that Christmas sales will offset the summer slump. As long as the weather holds up, that is...

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