RSM comments on ONS retail sales figures for August

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Commenting on today’s retail sales statistics for August 2018 released by the Office of National Statistics, Hugh Fairclough, audit partner and consumer lead in Yorkshire, said:

‘After a sales bounce in July, retail sales in August held up well, with the quantity of goods bought increasing by 0.3 per cent compared with the previous month. While the back-to-school campaigns might have failed to deliver an uptick in clothing sales, the good weather in August encouraged people to splash out. In particular, the region hosted the Tour-de-Yorkshire, music festivals, the Great Yorkshire Show, the international triathlon series and other sporting events, so Yorkshire retailers will have no doubt benefited from the uplift in footfall.

‘In addition, the figures also showed a slight 0.2 per cent increase in the volume of petrol bought by consumers in August, suggesting a rise in days out and staycations. But the amount spent on petrol rose by 1.3 per cent, underlining the rise in the cost of fuel which was up by 11.3 per cent in August versus the same month last year.

‘Online sales as a proportion of overall retailing remained at a record high of 18.2 per cent. A supplementary report issued today by the ONS also shows that pureplay online retailers are growing faster than multi-channel retailers. This might give the Chancellor more reason to consider the introduction of a so-called Amazon tax. However, he will have to be mindful of the possible impact on physical retailers using online sales profits to offset store losses, or on those small retailers using online platforms.

‘Despite the broadly positive figures for August, pressure on sales channels and high street retail location continues for all. Clothing and homeware retail continues to suffer from reduced consumer spending and has led to several high profile administrations recently.

‘As we approach the run up to Christmas, it will be interesting to see if fortunes change; and ultimately it will be the retailers who can adapt quickly that will benefit most.

‘Retailers are finding the market difficult to read and they are also finding it difficult to plan. As we race towards March’s Brexit deadline, pressure on consumer spending, availability of stock and workforce continue, means the future of retail in Yorkshire could remain uncertain on several fronts.’

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