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Retail sales stay firm, in spite of high street gloom

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Retail sales stayed firm in August, in the face of rising inflation.

In particular, sales of household goods were robust, rising 4.5%. Other non-food items saw a rise of 2.8%. In contrast, food sales dropped by 0.6% and clothing fell by 1.9%, although both had been strong in July.

Office for National Statistics senior statistician, Rhian Murphy, said: “Retail sales remained strong in the three months to August, with continued growth across all sectors. Food and household goods stores particularly benefitted from the warm weather when compared with last summer.

“The figures for the month of August were a little more mixed, with food sales falling after strong sales earlier in the summer and clothing sales declining following a strong July, as suggested by clothing retailers. On the other hand, household goods grew strongly.”

However, the gloom in certain parts of the high street continued. The stronger figures could do little for high street bicycle chain Evans Cycles, which is looking for a new buyer. Fashion and homeware retailer Orla Kiely ceased trading on Monday after its parent company, Kiely Rowan collapsed. The retailer’s stores on the King’s Road and Seven Dials in London, and Kildare in Ireland, have closed, along with its website.

Ian Forrest, investment research analyst at The Share Centre, says: “Retail sales in August were better than expected with a 0.3% rise month-on-month compared to expectations of a slight fall. That was especially notable given that inflation rose by more than expected to 2.7% as reported yesterday. The picture for retail sales was mixed with food and clothing sales down while household goods saw good growth.

“The ONS today reported that in the three months to August sales were up in all sectors with volumes rising 3.4% on the previous year. The World Cup and warm weather during the summer led to an increase in the sale of televisions and food sales. Online spending once again was strong and reached a record proportion of 18.2% of all spending. The good figures will provide a welcome boost to the retail sector, especially high street retailers who have been struggling with increased costs in recent times.”



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