Retail still going strong, according to new ONS figures

New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that UK retail sales have had their strongest quarter since late 2014, although the late onset of autumn has hindered clothes sales.

Third quarter of 2016 looks rosy for retail

Although some experts expected spending to slow down after the Brexit vote, that doesn’t seem to have happened.

ONS figures for July to September show that retail sales increased by 1.8 per cent compared to the previous quarter, and were up 4.1 per cent on 2015.

This means that during those months British retail sales recorded their strongest quarter of growth since late 2014.

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

Off-kilter seasons hit clothing sales

But it’s not all good news for shops. Despite the third quarter looking perky overall, September didn’t meet modest growth predictions.

There was zero retail growth for the month, with sales of clothing and footwear in the most trouble. Experts reckon that the fact that summer lasted through September meant that shops struggled to shift new autumn stock.

Clothing brands like ASOS, Next and Marks & Spencer have been failing to boost their sales.

Shops could see the impact of climbing prices

But while the referendum vote doesn’t seem to have dented retail sales so far, the current weakness of the pound could begin to have an impact, as prices are set to rise.

James Knightley from financial services corporation ING warned: “With inflation starting to respond to higher import costs relating to sterling’s weakness, we are going to see household spending power being eroded.”

Inflation rose to one per cent in September, and the weak pound is expected to feed through into higher shop prices soon. The pace of employment growth has also started to slow.

If you run a retail business, how have things been going over the last few months? Tell us in the comments.

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