Christmas shopping fails to boost retailers

UK retail sales were the weakest since May in November, despite Christmas fast approaching.

The figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC), show that UK retail sales values were 1.6 per cent lower than they were in November 2010.

Internet, mail-order and phone sales growth also fell back in November, after picking up in October, and were at their weakest level since March, even though Christmas was just a month away.

Commenting on the figures, Stephen Robertson director general at the BRC said: “There’s a worrying lack of cheer in these figures. The weakest increase in sales for six months suggests consumers are keeping a tight rein on their spending, despite Christmas being so near.”

“The mild temperatures are thought to be partly to blame, Robertson added: “This November’s mild weather contrasted with much lower temperatures last year, hitting sales of winter clothing and footwear particularly hard. Consumers are not quite in the Christmas mindset yet, although stores are working to generate much-needed sales with high levels of festive discounting. Retailers hope that customers who’ve managed their finances carefully in recent months will still treat themselves and their families in December, unhampered by the severe weather which disrupted shopping twelve months ago.”

Commenting on the Autumn Statement, which verified the UK’s current economic situation he added: “The Autumn Statement’s bleak assessment of the UK recovery is the latest in a sequence of poor economic news which includes falling sales, rising unemployment and stubbornly high inflation. The Chancellor offered some modest assistance but, this close to Christmas, more concrete progress on measures to inspire confidence in consumers and businesses is badly needed.”

The news comes as a survey from Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks has revealed that 60 per cent of UK shoppers are more conscious of what they are spending as they do their Christmas shopping.