September saw an unexpected pick up in retail sales, as laptops and supplies for the new school year and new video games releases gave retailers a much needed boost following a slow summer and bleak outlook for the rest of the year.
Sales volume rose 0.6 per cent for September, according to official statistics, which more than reverses the 0.4 per cent fall seen in August. On a three month scale, however, the picture is not so appealing, with a 0.2 per cent fall over the three months to September.
Samuel Tombs, economist at Capital Economics, stated that: “September’s retail sales figures were a bit stronger than we and the consensus had expected, but hardly suggested that a recovery on the high street is now underway.”
Statistics showed that, as predicted, the late warm weather took a toll on clothing and footwear sales, which dropped by more than 2 per cent compared to last year. The ONS ‘other stores’ category, however, saw a sales increase of 2.3 per cent, the largest since Oct 2010, thanks mainly to laptops and a couple of high profile video game releases.
As well as Tombs, several economists have warned that these figures do little to improve the current economic situation or outlook for the future; according to Scott Corfe of the Centre for Economics and Business Research “Consumers are going through the most prolonged squeeze on real incomes since the 1920s and their purchasing power is being significantly eroded. Despite today’s better-than-expected figures, the outlook for the consumer remains highly fragile over the coming years and we would expect this to impact on their spending habits”..