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UK's August retail sales fall is biggest decline in seven years
September 4, 2015 / 6:03 AM / 2 years ago

UK's August retail sales fall is biggest decline in seven years

A man chooses apples in an Asda store in northwest London, Britain August 18, 2015.Suzanne Plunkett

LONDON (Reuters) - August was the worst month for British retail sales since the global financial crisis of 2008, according to a survey published on Friday.

Accountancy firm BDO said its monthly high street sales tracker (HSST) showed a 4.3 percent year-on-year fall in August sales -- the biggest drop since November 2008 and the sixth monthly dip this year.

The retail data follows a survey on Thursday from financial data company Markit, which showed that businesses in Britain's services sector recorded their slowest growth in more than two years last month, mirroring signs of economic weakness in the United States and China.

The Bank of England is considering when to start raising interest rates, though financial markets do not expect it to act until next year, with inflation barely above zero in Britain.

The BDO said that all retail sectors were subdued in August, with fashion sales down 5.5 percent, homewares falling by 3.3 percent and lifestyle goods slipping by 1.3 percent.

Though non-store (online) sales rose by 11.4 percent year on year, the rise represented the slowest growth recorded by the HSST index for that market segment.

"The high street was losing out as UK consumers opted to spend their disposable income on leisure pursuits, eating out and holidays," said Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO.

“The strength of the pound has encouraged Brits to spend more abroad rather than in the UK.”

She added, however, that the last week of August was cold and wet enough to make people think about autumn, helping to provide a sales uplift for fashion retailers that week.

On Wednesday British car parts and bicycle retailer Halfords blamed wet August weather for a sharp fall in cycle sales.

Reporting by James Davey; Editing by David Goodman

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