January sales increase year-on-year but fall below festive successes

The Northern Echo: Shoppers in Darlington look for bargains Shoppers in Darlington look for bargains

HIGH street retailers continue to be increasingly buoyant, despite a rain-sodden January hitting sales, new figures have revealed.

A report says sales increased by 4.3 per cent in January compared to a year ago.

However, the amount of goods sold at the tills was 1.5 per cent lower than figures recorded during a strong December, when shops were boosted by the bumper Christmas rush.

The results, released by the Office for National Statistics, said household goods stores are leading the sales revival among the UK's retailers, with sales volumes rising by 9.8 per cent in the best monthly performance since 2007.

It said for every pound spent in the retail industry in January, 42 pence was in food stores, 41 pence in non-food stores, 11 pence in petrol forecourt stores, and six per cent in non-store retailing.

Paul Feechan, senior partner at Deloitte in the North-East, said: "These results reflect an increase in consumer confidence.

"Key indicators, including rising employment figures and a buoyant housing market, have bolstered consumer sentiment and subsequently boosted sales.

"While real wage growth remains below inflation, the outlook is set to improve in 2014.

“Interestingly, we saw less heavy discounting of surplus stock in January, as most retailers got their Christmas order volumes about right.

"Despite this, January’s figures are still strong, even without the added boost from these extra discount sales.

“We also saw no major retailers go under last month, which is a clear sign of the sector's improving health."

The report said the amount spent in January increased by 4.4 per cent, compared to the snow-hit month shoppers decided to steer clear from in 2013.

The month-on-month decline in sales volumes comes after a strong performance in December, when the figure jumped by 2.5 per cent.

However, the figures show January's level of sales was still 0.2 per cent above the average for the final quarter of 2013.

The amount spent online reflected a similar pattern, with sales up 8.9 per cent on a year earlier but down 3.3 per cent compared with December.

James Knightley, ING Bank economist, added: “With consumer confidence on a strong upward path, employment rising and wage growth starting to show some hints of life, we look for the household sector to contribute strongly to GDP growth this year.”

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