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BRC: Web sales keep rising, but not by very much

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The British Retail Consortium reports that growth in non-food non-store sales slowed sharply in August to show a year-on-year gain of 7.9%, well down on the 20.0% in July and 16.8% in June, and the weakest gain since May.

Trade had benefited from June’s heatwave and July’s clearance sales, the BRC found, but dropped back in August when these factors ended. Sales continued to outpace store sales but, as ever, the BRC warns that this expansion is from a very low base as non-food non-store sales account for only about 4% of total retail sales.

“This is the second weakest growth we’ve recorded in the eleven months this measure has been running and well down on July’s figure,” says Sharon Hardiman, BRC’s head of non-store retailing. “Customers are pulling back and it’s clear the stronger sales of previous months were driven by seasonal factors and promotions not any widespread return of consumer confidence. Non-store sales of non-food goods continue to outperform store sales but they are not immune from the impact of the recession on customers’ ability and willingness to spend.”

And, addressing the general outlook for retail, BRC director general Stephen Robertson warns, “As we head into autumn, we mustn’t make too much of any positive sales growth because the comparison will be with very weak figures a year ago when total sales growth dipped below zero.”

Overall, UK retail sales values fell 0.1% on a like-for-like basis from August 2008 — a month when sales had fallen after being hit by very wet weather.

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