UK retail sales growth weakest since May, says BRC

High Street shopper The BRC says sales have remained low despite heavy discounting

Shoppers are keeping a "tight rein" on their spending in the run up to Christmas, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has said.

Its retail sales monitor found that retail sales only grew 0.7% in November, which was the weakest growth since May.

On a like-for-like basis, which only includes stores that have been open for at least a year, sales fell 1.6%.

The BRC blamed mild weather for falling sales of winter clothing and footwear.

"Consumers are not quite in the Christmas mindset yet, although stores are working to generate much-needed sales with high levels of festive discounting," said BRC director general Stephen Robertson.

"Retailers hope that customers who've managed their finances carefully in recent months will still treat themselves and their families in December, unhampered by the severe weather which disrupted shopping 12 months ago."

Sales of non-food items over the internet, mail order and telephone grew 8.6% compared with the same month last year, but that was the weakest growth since March.

Food sales growth was little changed from October's five-month low, although there was some demand for premium lines and ready meals as as consumers "traded down from dining out".

Sales of toiletries and cosmetics fell for the first time for two years, with low demand for cough and cold remedies and winter skincare due to the mild weather.

'Deeply worried'

"Given consumer spending's key role, the BRC survey fuels concern that the economy is headed back towards recession," said Howard Archer at IHS Global Insight.

"Consumers are deeply worried about both the domestic and the global economic outlook, while the weak housing market also has adverse repercussions for consumer spending."

There have been a number of pre-Christmas profits warnings and weak trading statements from retailers in recent weeks.

The outdoor retailer Blacks Leisure said the mild weather had hit its sales and it warned that Christmas trading would be worse than expected.

There have also been warnings of falling sales and profit margins from Top Shop boss Sir Philip Green, while JD Sports has also said its sales have fallen.

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