Retail sales fell flat in '˜unusually warm' September

UK retail sales were slightly weaker than expected in September but shoppers continued to show no sign of Brexit caution, official figures suggested today.

The mild weather dented demand for winter clothing last month. Picture: John Devlin

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed there was no change in the quantity consumers bought in September compared with August, missing expectations of a 0.2 per cent increase.

Sales grew by 4.1 per cent on the same time last year, which was also weaker than expected. The ONS said rising prices and an “unusually warm” September hit demand for autumn and winter clothing.

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ONS statistician Kate Davies said: “The underlying trend is one of strength, suggesting consumer confidence has remained steady since June’s referendum.”

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The amount spent online jumped by 22 per cent on September last year and by 2.8 per cent compared with the previous month.

Ian Gilmartin, head of retail and wholesale at Barclays, said: “It’s reassuring to see retail sales holding up in September. The public enjoyed the Indian summer, but it wasn’t so popular with fashion retailers who were trying to push their autumn and winter lines, although those with a good web business may have benefited from overseas traffic due to the weaker pound.

“Despite this, other parts of the industry performed well, with department stores posting good numbers and online sales going from strength to strength. The overall 5.4 per cent growth in the quarter is an excellent result and should be celebrated.”

Chris Williamson from IHS Markit said: “UK retailers enjoyed the strongest three-month spell of growth for almost two years in the third quarter, but cracks may be appearing in the willingness of consumers to keep spending in the face of rising prices and wider financial worries.

“The data add to the increasing body of news which point to the economy having maintained steady, albeit unexciting, growth in the third quarter. However, the concern is that we may be starting to see signs that rising inflation, weak pay growth and job insecurity among households are all starting to subdue consumer spending.”