UK retail spend cut back

Consumers cut back on spending in August after a surprise post-Brexit splurge in July as hot weather put shoppers off going to the high streets, a survey showed yesterday.

Spending fell by 0.3% compared with August last year, down sharply from a 1.9% leap in July, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said.

The BRC said it was the weakest reading since September 2014, excluding distortions caused by the timing of public holidays, but it did not appear to be a delayed reaction by consumers to the shock June 23 vote to leave the EU.

“Care should be taken in reading too much into August’s lacklustre performance,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said, noting volatile swings in recent British economic data.

“So far, little has directly changed for the UK’s consumers as a result of the referendum.”

Britain’s consumers, who drove the country’s recovery from the financial crisis, appear to have largely taken the Brexit vote in their stride for now, according to several indicators.

Purchases of new cars have fallen since the referendum and there have been signs of weaker demand in the housing market.

The Bank of England expects rising inflation and uncertainty about Britain’s future trading relationship with the EU to weigh on the economy in the months and years ahead.

The BRC said that, on a like-for-like basis, stripping out changes in the amount of retail space open to shoppers over the past 12 months, sales fell by 0.9% in August from a year earlier, compared with a 1.1% increase in July.

Over the three months to August, total sales were up 0.6%, half the average rate of the past 12 months, weighed down by non-food sales which were probably hit by lower numbers of shoppers in the warm weather.

British retailer John Lewis has said sales at its stores rose 0.8% year-on-year in the week to September 3 as warm weather continued to dampen demand for fashions even as back-to-school purchases rose.

As the only major British retailer to publish weekly sales data, John Lewis provides the most up-to-date snapshot of shopping behaviour.

Barclaycard said yesterday its measure of consumer spending rose 4.2% in August, the highest annual rise in just over a year, pushed up by the higher cost of holiday spending abroad after a post-Brexit vote fall in value of the pound.


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