Tuesday, 6 December 2011

ONS Retail Figures Paint Overly Positive Picture

Stephen Robertson
Official figures released on last month by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) paint a much rosier picture of the state of retail than the British Retail Consortium (BRC) is getting from its members. The BRC's own highly regarded statistics show total retail sales values up 1.5 per cent on a year ago, meaning customers are actually buying less when the impact of inflation is factored in.

British Retail Consortium Director General, Stephen Robertson, said: "Most retailers won't recognise the overly positive picture being painted by these ONS results. The reality is disposable incomes are down on a year ago and customers are cutting back.

"Even food sales are suffering as people cut back or switch to cheaper brands in an effort to balance their household budgets. Stores are competing hard for what customer spending is available but consumers are overwhelmingly gloomy. Sales that happen come at the cost of reduced margins as retailers cut prices while facing higher business costs.

"We need the Chancellor to support households and businesses by holding back the costs he's responsible for. He should scrap the increases in fuel duty planned for next year and reduce the threatened 5.6 per cent business rates rise. At a time when youth unemployment has passed the one million mark, promoting growth in a sector where under 25s make up a third of the workforce should be a priority for the Government.

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