UK retail sales rise as shoppers buy winter clothing

Retail analyst Natalie Berg: "Growth in September was due to good predictable weather"

Demand for winter clothing and school uniforms helped to increase retail sales in September, official figures show.

Sales volumes were up 0.6% last month, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), compared with a 0.1% fall in August.

The sales decrease in August had been blamed on people putting off shopping to watch the Olympics,

Compared with September 2011, the year-on-year figures show sales up 2.5%.

The ONS estimates that prices in the shops rose by 1.3% in September from August, with the cost of textiles, clothing and footwear increasing.

"Sales were boosted as consumers put off purchases of school uniforms until early September and that new winter collections had increased sales," the ONS said.

In the months between July and September, retail sales were 1% higher than in the previous three months, the strongest quarterly rise since the second quarter of 2010.

Natalie Berg, retail analyst at Planet Retail, said the improvement was indicative of broader consumer recovery. She told the BBC that better weather in September "had got the consumers out".

But she warned that an expected rise food and energy prices over coming months would continue to squeeze consumer spending.

Ross Walker, economist at Royal Bank of Scotland, said: "Although retail services form a relatively small share of GDP, I think it shows that consumer activity has normalised after those second quarter distortions.

"We're more confident after these figures that we'll get the sort of quarterly growth figure we want."

Store closures

The retail sector has endured tough times with JJB Sports, Peacocks, Blacks Leisure, Clinton Cards and Game Group all going into administration in past 12 months.

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We are spending a lot more than we were before the recession and not getting much more in return”

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A report out on Thursday estimated that retailers with multiple outlets closed 20 stores a day in the UK in the first six months of this year.

The report, from consultants PwC and the retail information group Local Data Company, said that in July and August the rate of closures rose to 34 a day.

Toy shops, clothes shops, jewellers, card and poster shops, and furniture stores were particularly badly hit. Meanwhile, outlets bucking the trend included discount stores, convenience stores, coffee shops, bookmakers and charity shops, the report said.

Mike Jervis, PwC insolvency partner and retail specialist, said: "All retailers in distress have too many locations. The insolvencies of Game, Peacocks and Clintons demonstrated this in spades.

"Relatively long leases, with inflexible terms, have been entered into in a growth phase of the economy which is no longer appropriate."

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