Belfast Telegraph

Retailers suffer as consumers focus on the essentials

By Holly Williams

Retail sales growth slowed sharply last month as fears over Government spending cuts saw consumers focus on essential purchases, according to new figures.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said retail sales grew 0.5% on a like-for-like basis in July - a steep fall from the 1.2% hike in June and the worst reading since April.

Non-food sales were the worst impacted, with cautious shoppers shunning so-called big-ticket items and homewares, said the BRC.

Its latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor showed sales of home accessories and house textiles fell back below a year earlier and suffered the largest decline since spring 2009.

Furniture and flooring sales also tumbled year on year as consumers chose to put off large home improvement projects. Food sales growth picked up, but this was largely flattered by a smaller gain a year earlier, said the BRC.

Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC, said: "Talk of public spending cuts is unsettling customers and they are concentrating on essentials. It's clear the recovery continues to need support."

Internet, mail order and phone sales also slowed in July to 11.3% year-on-year growth. Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG, said it was encouraging to see sales continue to grow, but cautioned of further fallout from austerity measures.

"Spending at least continues to hold up and is likely to continue to do so, at least until the effects of Government measures begin to hit people's pockets," she said.

The cooler weather at the end of last month and the end of the World Cup also acted as a drag on retail sales.

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