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Shoppers tighten belts as September retail sales disappoint

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
In the month to September 2018, retail sales declined by 0.8% as shoppers cut back on spending following the summer heatwave splurge.

Food sales saw a fall of 1.5%, which is the largest decline in this category since October 2015, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

But on a quarterly comparison, the quantity bought increased 1.2%, helped by consumers spending in watch and jewellery stores.

Year-on-year, retail sales increased by a healthy 3%, but was lower than the forecast 3.6% rise as consumer spending in department stores weighed heavily on the figure.

The ONS also reported that online sales as a proportion of all retailing fell slightly to 17.8% in September 2018 from the 18% reported in August 2018. However, food stores and clothing stores both reported record proportions of internet retail at 5.8% and 18.2% respectively.

Ben Brettell, senior economist at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “It looks like consumer spending – along with the weather – peaked in early summer and has been declining ever since.

“Where we go from here is highly uncertain. Brexit is hitting consumer confidence hard, but on the plus side wage growth has hit a decade high while inflation is falling. So consumers look likely to have more spending power. The issue is whether they choose to use it, or keep their powder dry until more clarity over Brexit emerges.”

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