UK retail sales volumes fall for 'sixth consecutive month'

UK retail sales volumes “fell sharply” in the 12 months to October, new research has found.

The latest CBI Distributive Trades Survey found that sales fell in the year to October and at a faster pace than last month, marking the sixth month in a row in which annual sales have declined.

Martin Sartorius, principal economist at CBI said the retail sector remains in a “perilous position” as the festive period approaches.

“Sales volumes have been falling year-on-year for six months in a row, as cost-of-living concerns and higher interest rates weigh on consumer spending,” he said. “While slowing inflation should help to bolster households’ income in the coming months, retailers will continue to face headwinds from higher energy and borrowing costs.”

Sartorious added that the government’s Autumn Statement could help relieve some of the tax burden on the sector by freezing business rates from rising with inflation for another year.

Bosses from 44 UK retailers – including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Lidl and M&S – recently penned a letter to chancellor Jeremy Hunt calling for a freeze in the business rates multiplier expected to be announced in the upcoming Autumn Statement.

According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), the retail industry pays over £7 billion in annual business rates. It warned that without action from the chancellor, the business rates multiplier will rise in April 2024 in line with the September inflation figure – expected to be over six per cent – resulting in an increase of more than £400 million a year on retailers’ business rates bills.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson previously said the chancellor “must freeze rates to help keep a lid on retailers’ already high costs” and noted that “with shop price inflation having eased for three consecutive months, it is vital that the government does not add to the cost burden and undermine this progress.”

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