Miserable weather hits summer clothes sales but Taylor Swift boosts card spending

Consumers spent less in shops as wet weather dampened demand for typical seasonal goods in July, latest figures show.

Total UK retail sales increased 1.5%, according to the retail sales monitor from retail representative British Retail Consortium (BRC) and big four accountancy firm KPMG.

But at the same time official figures showed the rate of price rises stood at 7.9% in the year up to July and when inflation is factored in there was a drop in volumes, the monitor showed.

Food and drink, and homewares were high street best sellers in the month, while the rain meant shopping for summer clothes was down.

All categories of clothing showed contraction in the usually busy month for fashion retailers.

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Food sales rose 8.4% – above the 12-month average growth of 7.8% – as food inflation dropped slightly from its high of 19.2% in March. It meant prices were still rising just at a slower pace than before.

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A reduction was also seen in non-food sales which fell 0.5% over the three months to July, below the 12-month total average growth of 0.6%.

Online sales continued to fall from the highs reached in the pandemic. They dropped nearly 7% from July 2022, with only a few categories such as furniture, health and beauty performing well.

The wettest March in 40 years was behind the only month of no growth in retail sales in 2023, according to the Office of National Statistics.

At the same time another indicator of consumer spending showed an increase in card purchases.

Sales of Taylor Swift and Foo Fighters tickets helped card spending rise 4% compared to last month and the July before, according to Barclay’s consumer card spending figures.

It came despite shoppers dealing with the increased cost of borrowing and inflation.

Live entertainment, holiday bookings and summer socialising made consumers spend but careful discretionary spending meant the overall growth figure declined from June’s 5.4%, Barclays said.

“We are starting to see a big rise in the number of promotions that retailers are putting in place in order to get shoppers through the door, as they battle to keep market share,” said Paul Martin, the UK head of retail at KPMG.

“Price-conscious consumers are shopping more carefully, more aware of where bargains can be found and what they are getting for their money – which is biting hard into retail margins and profitability.”

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