Oct 9, 2018
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Britons rein in spending after hot summer, plan to spend less on Christmas

Oct 9, 2018

It’s beginning to look a lot like (a grim) Christmas for the UK fashion retail sector as two new spending reports for September show consumers growing increasingly cautious.

UK consumers are thinking about budgets after a spending boom during the summer

First, the British Retail Consortium and KPMG reported the weakest retail sales figures for five months as like-for-like sales dropped slightly (0.2%) and total sales fell 0.7% compared to August (when they had risen 1.3%).

It seems the end of the hot summer meant an end to a mini spending surge, despite September temperatures having stayed mild. But with stores being full of products designed for colder weather, those mild temperatures were a big part of the problem.

The BRC said that the back-to-school season failed to make up for weaker overall spending and that means that in the three months to September, in-store sales of non-food items declined 2.7% in total and 4% like-for-like. 

At least e-sales of non-food products grew 5.4% in September, but a year ago the growth was closer to 11%. The latest figure is the smallest since January.

Meanwhile, the separate monthly Barclaycard data release and survey showed consumer spending overall up 3.9% year-on-year, also the slowest figure for five months. 

Clothing just about managed to edge into the plus column with a rise of 0.7% and womenswear rose 3.5%.

Neither of those figures are especially impressive and Barclaycard said that consumer spending is returning to a more modest level as consumers think about budgets after perhaps splashing out during the hot summer.

The most worrying aspect was that 46% of consumers surveyed by the company said their plan is to spend less on Christmas this year than they did in 2017. And with Christmas being the big, big spending season in the UK, that's really bad news.

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