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Retail ‘reasons to be cheerful’ in January sales figures

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Online sales put in “solid” growth last month, new figures out today show, while there were “reasons to be cheerful,” in the expansion seen across the retail sector.

The 10.1% growth in ecommerce sales, compared the same time last year, came, said the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor for January, as total sales rose by 3% and like-for-like sales were up by 1.9%.

“January’s sales figures will give retailers reasons to be cheerful as like-for-like sales achieved the highest increase seen since December 2011,” said David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG . “It’s a strong start to what is anticipated to be a tough year for the sector.”

The overall growth is the best seen since September last year, but the pace of online sales expansion has slowed. Last January internet sales, on a measure that excludes food, were up by 11.3%, while last month they grew by 17.8%.

Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium , said: “After a dazzling performance in December, online sales growth has settled to a low – but still solid – more in line with the annual average.

“The mid-month snow seems to have brought mixed fortunes for many online retailers. While online-only retailers appear to have done well out of more people staying in and shopping, some multichannel retailers suggested that concerns about collecting in store may have deterred shoppers for a short while.”

KPMG’s McCorquodale said: “While technology advances may have hastened the demise of HMV, Blockbuster and Jessops, many retailers will look back at the last two months with pride after implementing successful seasonal campaigns where they have served the customer well,” he said. “Sales are only one side of the equation and time will soon reveal the true cost of the promotions and margin squeezes used to drive these sales. However it is encouraging to see such positive results in what is traditionally a challenging month.”

Categories that saw growth during the month included footwear, food, furniture and flooring, but sales of clothing, health and beauty and home accessories were all lower.

Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive of grocery analyst the IGD, said: “The first trading week in January was particularly strong, although our period included New Year’s Eve, unlike last year, making the comparison difficult. However the resilience of the market in the second half of the month, despite severe weather, gives further grounds for cautious optimism.”

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