LONDON, (Reuters) - Surging clothing and footwear sales helped British retail sales accelerate sharply in August, according to figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) on Tuesday.
Total retail spending was 2.7 percent higher than a year ago, up from 1.3 percent in July. The BRC said this was the best performance since January, excluding the effects of the timing of Easter holidays.
Sales on a like-for-like basis - a measure which strips out changes in floor space and is favoured by equity analysts - rose 1.3 percent on the year, beating expectations of a 0.5 percent rise and up from a 0.3 percent decline in July.
Clothing and footwear sales rose at the strongest pace since December 2011, helped by back-to-school shopping and fashion retailers changing their seasonal collections.
But spending on food declined again, marking its deepest three-month average fall since records began in December 2008.
“Overall, it has been a very successful summer for non-food retailers, placing them on a firm footing for the autumn/winter trading period and the run-up to Christmas,” said David McCorquodale, head of retail at accountants KPMG, which sponsors the survey.
“The food sector remains in a state of disruption with the share of the ‘big four’ being challenged on many fronts after a 15-year reign.”
Britain’s biggest grocer Tesco has lost market share to discounters Aldi and Lidl and to upmarket grocers like Waitrose. Rivals Sainsbury’s and Wal-Mart’s Asda have remained largely stable while Morrisons, the country’s fourth largest player, has also struggled.
Consumer spending has been a major driver of Britain’s unexpectedly strong economic recovery over the past year, and economic optimism among Britons remains high.
The Office for National Statistics publishes August retail sales data on Sept. 18 covering a broader range of stores than the BRC data, which focus on larger chains.
British retail sales grew in July at the slowest annual rate since November last year, although some economists said the data looked healthier once fuel sales and monthly volatility were
Reporting by Andy Bruce; editing by Andrew Roche