Non-food non-store sales in January were 19.2% higher than a year ago, according to the latest retail sales figures from the British Retail Consortium.
This was a lower increase in sales than the 30% gain recorded in December, but a much better performance than November when sales grew by only 9.5%.
Non-food sales overall were down on a year ago, though by less than in December. “Sales were driven by widespread heavy discounting in clearance sales,” the BRC explains. “Despite this clothing, footwear, homewares and health and beauty sales remained down on a year ago.”
“After a good start to January, sales growth then weakened as clearances ended. Shoppers took advantage of good deals, but many purchases were replacements and essentials rather than discretionary extras.”
Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, says however that “Non-food sales fell more slowly suggesting January clearance deals released pent-up demand and customers started to spend on goods they’ve been intending to buy for months. “But the fundamentals haven’t changed. Job fears are mounting. Consumer confidence is at record lows. It remains to be seen whether January’s discount-driven growth was just a blip.”
Consumers made good use of the internet in January to purchase goods in clearance sales, the BRC says. With many online clearances beginning immediately after Christmas, or even on Christmas Day, shoppers were able to research and buy from the convenience of their own home. This was especially advantageous during the very cold snowy spells early in the month.
“January saw a return to more normal sales growth for non-store retailing, after a sharp boost from Christmas,” says Sharon Hardiman, head of non-store retailing at the BRC. “Some of this growth was due to the various promotions and clearance sales. Non-food sales in store were down on last year in contrast to the strong growth amongst the much smaller proportion of non-food sales that happen online.”