Online sales put in a lacklustre performance in September, despite a recovery on the high street, the latest BRC figures suggest.
Total UK retail sales grew by 3.4% last month, today's BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor showed, with like-for-like sales up by 1.5%. But while total sales showed their best performance since Christmas, online sales were weaker than this year’s trend at 9.9%.
Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Difficult has become the new norm. Customers are still cautious but less fearful than they were. The squeeze on disposable incomes has eased for some and, along with lots of discounts, left them feeling it's time to stop postponing spending. Retailers will be hoping this modest boost strengthens as Christmas approaches.”
David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said: "After a turbulent year on the UK high street, September's sales figures bring much needed relief for retailers. The news that like-for-like sales rebounded to achieve the highest increase seen in 2012 may give many renewed heart as they enter the most important trading period of the year.
"September's surge in sales was driven primarily by customers buying winter woollies as the arrival of autumn/winter fashions heralded the end of an often wet summer and ‘back-to-school' drove increases in children's clothing and shoes.”
He added: “Retailers will now be hoping that the consumer finds some confidence for 2013 to drive sales for the next three months. If that doesn't happen there's a real risk that the retailers will be forced to discount their seasonal margins away."
The news comes a day after the BDO September High Street Tracker showed like-for-like retail sales grew by 3.5% last month, while non-store sales grew by 32.5% during the month, with most retailers seeing double-digit growth. Most UK retail sales take place in stores, while most non-store sales take place online.
Fashion retailers benefited with sales up by 3% as shoppers stocked up on winter clothes with the advent of stormy weather. At this time last year like-for-like growth in this category fell by 5.1% as there was a late heatwave.
Non-fashion grew by 7% year-on-year, with strong performances in gifts, leisure, beauty and luxury sales. At 3.5% the overall rate of growth is the highest seen all year.
Don Williams, national head of retail and wholesale at BDO LLP, said: “These figures are being compared against a relatively weak 2011, but the predicted Olympic afterglow seems to have helped boost sales everywhere apart from homewares. The autumnal weather has certainly provided a welcome fillip for fashion sales too.
“Next month’s figures will give us a better idea of how strong the recovery is, but we expect growth to remain positive in the run up to Christmas.”
Adam Stewart, marketing director at Rakuten’s Play.com commented on the BDO figures. “It’s great to see some good news for UK retailers both online and on the high street after a challenging summer where consumers’ attention was diverted from the shops towards a summer of sports, including London 2012," he said.
“As we enter a fresh season shoppers are clearly looking to make up for lost time, stocking up on warm clothes and entertainment for the cold autumn evenings.
There’s no doubt that the recent burst of cold weather has encouraged more people to buy online from the comfort of their homes or to head to the warmth of high street shops, and it’s imperative that retailers make the most of this Golden Quarter in the run up to Christmas to ensure an overall successful year of sales.”