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News - 25 July 2008

Record fall in retail sales

The Office for National Statistics has reported that retail sales suffered their biggest slump on record in June as shoppers slowed down their spending sharply after May's consumer splurge.

Sales fell by a 3.9% in June which was bigger-than-expected and more than reversed May's 3.6% jump which was also bigger than expected (see earlier story). The drop was the worst in 24 years and May's increase was the biggest in 24 years.

The head of retail at consultants Ernst & Young - Gavin George - said "The retail sector is clearly feeling the pain as the UK consumer begins to batten down the hatches. The UK consumer is 15% worse off than they were five years ago and the pace of the squeeze on the consumer has accelerated rapidly over the last year, driven by massive hikes in petrol prices and utility bills."

The June figures mean that sales are still up year-on-year but only by 2%.

David Page, an economist at Investec bank, said that while the figures removed some of the confusion surrounding the retail backdrop, "they only confirm that things are as bad as we feared and we maintain that a poor outlook for households, in which we expect to see an increasing pace of rising unemployment, is likely to see the high street under further pressure in the second half of the year,"

The ONS data showed clothing and footwear, and household goods stores suffered particularly steep falls, down 7% and 5% respectively. There was even a small fall in the "non-store retailing" category, which includes internet sales.

Read related items on:
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Office of National Statisitics

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