The Office for National Statistics has reported that, against all expectations UK retail sales increased in August but others don't agree.
According to the ONS high street sales rose 1.2% in August and now stand 3.3% higher than this time last year. Analysts had expected a drop of half a percentage point after gloomy surveys of major retailers throughout the month but ONS suggest that clothing and shoe sales seem to have led the increase. Food sales fell 0.2%.
Recent surveys from the CBI and British Retail Consortium had painted a considerably darker picture of prospects for retailers (see earlier story). The BRC survey suggested sales were only 1.4% higher than last year and much of this was generated by deep discounting.
Stephen Robertson, Director General of the BRC, said: "These unexpectedly resilient figures fail to convey how tough conditions are for customers and retailers. Plenty of retailers would be delighted if their sales values were up over three per cent on a year ago".
"Fundamental conditions are weakening, not improving, and recent banking industry uncertainty can only make customers more nervous about spending. Yes, clothing and footwear sales growth has risen but that growth is modest and driven by discounts. It cannot be called strong and cannot explain ONS' high overall figures".
"We respect the ONS's process but the Bank of England is right to treat these figures as only one measure of retail performance."
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