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UK retail sales slump in October despite economy growth

UK retail sales fell in October despite the economy showing signs of recovery, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said.

The ONS attributed the 0.7% slump to the mild October weather affecting sales of winter clothing.

This despite the CBI prophesying the UK economy is set to grow 1.4% this year, and Bank of England governor Mark Carney declaring rhew recovery has “finally taken hold”.

Sales volumes are, however, still up 1.8% from a year earlier, indicating increased consumer confidence.

As well as a 2.8% fall in sales of clothing, food and petrol sales have also decreased.

The month-on-month fall was unexpected as economists had forecast sales to stay exchanged. Last month, UK consumers spent a total of £6.9bn a week, the ONS figures showed, based on a survey of 5,000 retailers.

Kate Davies from the ONS said: “Clothing sales have been dampened by a milder October than we’ve seen in previous years.

“But the wider economic picture is much more positive - this follows eight or nine months of growth in the retail sector.

“In the summer, sales were very much boosted by warm weather - particularly in July and August.”

Analysts say that, despite the downward trend in October, growth for this year is encouraging, and expected to continue.

North East retail consultant Graham Soult commented: “The ONS figures for October really continue the trend that we’ve been seeing since April – welcome year-on-year growth, but with plenty of lumps and bumps along the way.

“The continued year-on-year sales growth at non-food stores is particularly encouraging, though the decline in food sales since October 2012 demonstrates the extent to which grocery shoppers are still tightening their belts and seeking out bargains.”

Christmas, of course, will be crucial for retailers. Graham added: “As always, the period up to Christmas will be crucial for the retail sector, and we can expect a real battle among retailers for consumer spend over the next few weeks.

“While many retailers are in a good position – with superb products, stores and marketing campaigns – others that haven’t upped their game will lose out as consumers favour their stronger and better competitors.”

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