July retail sales see best growth since 2006

The UK food retail sector saw the “best July sales growth since 2006”, according to the latest British Retail Consortium (BRC) figures.

Figures showed that retail sales values were up 2.2% on a like-for-like (LFL) basis on July last year, when they had only increased by 0.1% on the previous year.

According to the BRC, the recent spate of sunny weather had boosted the food and fashion categories. However, it is possible the good weather was detrimental to online sales, which it said were almost 50% lower than the same period last year – online sales were up 7.9% this year compared to 15.6% in 2012.

Director general of the BRC Helen Dickinson described the figures as a “strong performance” and said July was the second-best month this year so far. “It has been driven by the warm weather and retailers working hard to offer deep discounts and great offers to their customers, with the reduction in shop prices we reported for July translating into more generous spending in UK stores,” she said.

Food was the strongest performer, with sales spurred by major sporting events, including Wimbledon and the Tour de France. She added: “While we know that the picture is still variable and the high street in particular continues to face considerable challenges, these positive results will be welcomed in town centres around the country, which depend so much on retailers performing well.”

Meanwhile, David McCorquodale, head of retail at professional services provider KPMG, hoped the positive figures would be an indication that the UK economy had turned a corner towards growth.

He said: ”Sales of food and drink soared as consumers popped open the bubbly and held barbecues to celebrate the royal family’s newest arrival, Murray’s Wimbledon triumph and the warm delights of summer.

“For the British consumer, it seems good things come in threes! Whilst this month’s figures will be a relief after last year’s wash-out summer saw shoppers stay at home, some of these sales were heavily driven by discounting.” However, he questioned whether retailers had sacrificed too much margin to drive the sales.