Retail sales were up 0.6% in October, new figures out today showed.
Food sales continued to fall – down 1%, making the three-month growth rate slowest since first lockdown.
Danni Hewson AJ Bell financial analyst comments on October retail sales figures: “Any good news from retailers deserves to be celebrated right now and for most sectors sales in October ticked up. Perhaps people have started Christmas shopping a little early, hoping to spread the cost of buying presents over several pay days. Anecdotally, some people seem to have been stocking up on woolly jumpers and “snuddies” as they try to avoid turning on the heating before they really have to.
“But look a little deeper and you can see concern about the cost of living is pushing shoppers towards second-hand goods. Whilst clothing sales were up significantly in October, department store sales were suppressed and furniture and household goods sellers also struggled. Nice to haves, expensive luxuries and big-ticket purchases are all being pushed onto the back-burner as people consider how best to deal with their own personal circumstances, whether that means trying to bolster a savings cushion or just paying for the necessities.
“Fuel sales were up as the changing seasons and darker nights may have put some people off walking, and falling prices at the pump helped ease the guilt over that particular decision.
“It’s hardly surprising that food sales were down once again. Whereas a few months ago declining sales were being put down to the reopening of hospitality, rising inflation has now changed the picture dramatically. Once all the switches to value brands have been made and budgets are still under siege the only option remaining for shoppers is to cut back on the amount they but in their trolley and that’s a trend that supermarkets have been reporting.
“And the good news isn’t lined with silver, it’s actually pretty grey and fraying. Month-on-month comparisons need to be viewed cautiously because of the additional bank holiday in September, which saw a number of retailers shut up shop to mark the Queen’s funeral.
“Retail sales are still below pre-pandemic levels, and when you look at sales over the three months to October compared to the previous three months the picture is pretty bleak. In fact, it hasn’t been this bad since March 2021 when covid restrictions were still in place.
“October is supposed to be the start of the golden quarter for retailers, the period when they deck the halls and send tills ringing. But retailers are unlikely to be feeling the festive cheer at the moment and with recession already upon us it seems unlikely we’ll see a similar rise in sales over the coming months. Even the imminent arrival of Black Friday is unlikely to generate huge revenue. People will be looking for bargains but they’ll have a clear idea of what they want to buy, and how much they can afford to spend. The squeeze on budgets mean they are less likely to be lured by shiny offers if they don’t hit the mark.”