August sales surpass 2022 figures despite ongoing cost-of-living crisis

The UK saw total retail sales increase by just over four per cent in August despite the ongoing cost of living crisis, according to data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG.

The figures, which were up by three per cent compared to the same four-week period of 2022, were largely driven by higher sales across the strongest performing categories of healthy, beauty and food and drink.

The research revealed that food sales were up by 8.2 per cent across the three months to August, above the 12-month average growth of eight per cent.

However, non-food sales decreased by 0.2 per cent during the three months to August.

“Retail sales in August improved, particularly on July’s poor performance,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive, BRC. “Sale of non-food products had their best month since February, particularly for health and beauty products as retailers continued to invest in new, exciting brands, and customers splurged on self-care.”

She added that while the sales figures reflect an improvement in consumer confidence in August, not all areas benefitted, with clothing and footwear experiencing weaker growth as "families held back spending on children’s uniforms and other back-to-school goods until the last minute".

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, said that internet retailers continued to struggle as online sales fell again in August, dropping by three per cent year-on-year.

“As summer comes to an end, retailers will have their sights firmly set on the most crucial period of trading as consumers get ready for Christmas," added Martin. "Inflation levels are heading in the right direction, albeit much more slowly than hoped, and savvy shoppers will be Christmas bargain hunting much earlier this year, as price continues to drive decisions and consumers seek out good deals to stretch their budgets."

He continued: "With shoppers becoming more calculated and aware of what they are getting for their money than we have seen for a long time, retailers will have to fight harder for every sale."

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