Strong sales of party food and clothes ahead of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations helped beleaguered retailers keep their heads above water in June. Like-for-like sales rose 1.4% over the month, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said, after the Jubilee sparked the strongest week for grocery sales since Easter and a rare blast of sun drove sales of summer clothes.
But the rest of the month proved "challenging" as the wettest June on record kept shoppers at home and dampened demand for barbecues and gardening items, while even home improvement failed to gain a boost.
Despite inflation, the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor showed that like-for-like sales over the first half of 2012 grew just 0.8% on the previous year, highlighting the strain on the sector amid the squeeze in people's incomes.
BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: "It was the bunting boost. June was saved by the feel-good lift of the Jubilee, showing how crucial these temporary factors are in our difficult trading conditions.
"Sadly the soggy celebrations over the Jubilee weekend itself, which heralded the start of the wettest June on record, were followed by far weaker business for the rest of the month."
He added: "With the first half of the year complete, we can see total sales growth between this January and June was no better than in 2011. It’s clear a permanent upturn in confidence and spending has yet to happen. Scrapping next month’s fuel duty rise will help hard-pressed customers and businesses. The Government needs to be equally supportive as it considers where next for other costs it controls."
The Jubilee celebrations boosted sales of alcohol, crisps, cakes and dips, while the warm weather in the run-up to the event stimulated sales of summer fashion, such as shorts, dresses and sandals. But the boost proved short-lived and the fortunes of the high street reversed amid grim weather in the wake of the Jubilee.
Women's clothing saw sales decline as shoppers cut back on non-essential spending although some were prompted to buy knitwear. Outdoor furniture and gardening equipment was also hit, with retailers being forced to put on discounts to drum up sales.
However, department stores benefited as footfall numbers were boosted by the rain, reporting strong sales of children's clothes. Electrical goods were supported by Euro 2012, which prompted sales of TVs, while laptops, e-book readers and tablet computers continued to sell well.
Meanwhile, online sales rose 12.1% against growth of 11.5% last year as people stuck indoors did their shopping online.
NamNews - Tuesday 10th July 2012