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Online sales rally in August

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Online sales appeared to rally in August, new figures out today show.

The BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor for August found that internet, mail order and phone sales rose by 12.6% in August, compared to the same month last year. That follows a July in which sales in the category rose only by 9.6% compared to the previous year.

Overall online proved a bright spot in a difficult retail environment. Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said: “Non-food, non-store sales have picked up after a period of slower growth earlier in the year. August’s performance is the strongest since April, which benefitted from warm weather and the later timing of Easter.”

The BRC found that while the total value of sales rose by 1.5% in July, like-for-like sales, which strip out the effect of stores closing or opening, were down by 0.6% in value.

Over the last three months, food sales have risen by 1.4% on a like-for-like basis but non-food sales are down by 1.5%, meaning a 0.2% fall in overall like-for-like sales.

Robertson said: “The retail sector’s performance for August has been essentially flat, particularly bearing in mind the increase in VAT which will be responsible for some of the growth in spending. It remains a tale of two halves. The food sector has proved more resilient but non-food retail showed a marked decrease in sales year-on-year.”

He said that the warm weather at the start of August had been a boost for some retailers but that it had failed to last long enough to make an impact.

Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG, said: “Given that much, if not all, of the growth is inflation and a higher VAT rate versus last year, this isn’t particularly good news for retailers as they struggle to maintain their margins.”

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