Retail sales fall back as May sun disappears

LONDON: Retail sales values fell back last month after May’s sun-driven boost as consumers cut back on most items except groceries, a survey showed on Tuesday.

The British Retail Consortium said the value of like-for-like retail sales fell by an annual 0.4 percent in June. That followed a 1.9 percent rise in May which was the biggest jump in four months.

Total sales, which include new floor-space, rose by 2.1 percent, less than half last month’s increase.

On a like-for-like basis, sales have now been lower than a year on for three of the past four months, suggesting tighter credit conditions and rising household bills are forcing consumers to tighten their belts.

“A negative result confirms fears that May’s modest like-for-like sales growth was a start-of-summer blip,” said Stephen Robertson, BRC director general.

He noted that almost all sectors apart from food had fallen with electricals and homewares particularly hard hit.

Furniture sales fell at their fastest rate in more than three years, reflecting a fall in the number of people moving house.

Food and drink was the only sector to show significant growth, helped by midsummer seasonal events such as the Euro 2008 soccer championships.

“The environment is a hugely challenging one for retailers,” said Helen Dickenson, the head of retail at consultants KPMG. “Although total sales grew by 2.1 percent in June, they continue to be impacted both by food inflation and the wider economic climate.”

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