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UK retail sales growth softens in third quarter

By Philip Smith

Shoppers cautious over spending in the three months to September 2019

UK retail sales growth softens in third quarter

UK shoppers may be enjoying the fruits of real-time wage growth but the increasing wealth is not filtering through to retailers. Monthly retail sales volumes were flat in September and annual sales growth picked up to 3.1 per cent from 2.6 per cent in August, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Yet the growth was slower than expected, adding to concerns about the resilience of shoppers’ spending. Consumer spending has been the biggest driver of British economic growth since the EU referendum in June 2016, but there have been increasing signs that this is starting to soften, reports Reuters. The ONS also said a spate of bad weather also impacted high street shopping. “The September figures will reinforce worries that weak business confidence is now spreading to the household sector,” said the Financial Times.

“Food shops bounced back after a weak few months, but there was yet more bad news for department stores, with sales continuing to fall in September,” ONS statistician Rhian Murphy said in a Reuters report.

The FT states that sales in the “non-specialised stores” category - which includes department stores - dropped by an annual 2 per cent in the third quarter.

The figures came days after a British Retail Consortium survey showed that UK stores reported a 10 per cent drop in visitor numbers over seven years.

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