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August riots sparked a fall in retail sales

By Jamie Grierson

Published 16/09/2011

Retail sales volumes fell 0.2% in August, official figures said yesterday, as violent riots earlier in the month in England triggered store closures across the country.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said while it was impossible to quantify, there was clear evidence the widespread looting in early August had an impact on retail trade.

However some stores believed they benefited from the riots as consumers altered their shopping behaviour by seeking alternatives to shops which had closed.

The shocking scenes, which led to thousands of arrests across England's biggest cities, added to the wider malaise swamping the retail sector, which has been knocked sideways by a consumer spending squeeze, driven by high prices and low wages.

The drop in August sales volumes, compared with 0.2% growth in July, was driven by most retail sectors with the greatest decrease coming from department stores, closely followed by computer and telecoms businesses.

The retail sector has had a torrid year, with department store TJ Hughes, fashion specialist Jane Norman and interior designer Habitat falling into administration, while Mothercare, entertainment group HMV and chocolatier Thorntons have all announced store closures.

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