UK retailers saw sales volumes unexpectedly lift in July (Reuters)
Retail sales volume in the UK grew by 0.3 percent month-on-month in July, better than the anticipated contraction and welcome news for embattled retailers struggling in a difficult trading environment.
Excluding fuel sales, the seasonally adjusted figure is unchanged on June, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). However many retailers were expecting a drop in sales as the UK recession worsened.
The London 2012 Olympic Games started at the end of July, but initial signs suggest that the event has not been a boost for retailers.
"Feedback from retailers suggests that there has been no impact on sales from the Games in this trading period," said the ONS.
June's retail sales figure was revised up to 0.8 percent from the initial estimate of 0.1 percent. This may have a slight upward impact on appaling second quarter GDP data, which showed a -0.7 percent decline in overall output from the UK economy.
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Retailers have been battling against dampened consumer demand, as Britons living in the shadow of a sharpening recession and global economic slowdown worry about their financial security. Recent months have seen a high cost of living for families, as wage growth fails to rise as quickly as the price of goods and services, though inflation has followed a general downward trend.
Despite the falling unemployment rate, many are still fearful of losing their job. A significant chunk of the increasing employment rate is down to part-time and self-employed workers, who naturally will not benefit from the same level of income and job safety as those in permanent full-time work.
This has led to households prioritising paying the bills over spending on luxury and non-essential items, such as fashion accessories. Heavy discounting by retailers has apparently failed to entice people back onto the high street and into the shops.
Record rainfall in the second quarter is also cited as a reason for the sluggish performance of Britain's retailers.
Wasted stock, coupled with slashed prices, is costing retailers across the country a significant amount of money in lost revenues.
There is currently a shop vacancy rate of 14.6 percent in Britain's high streets, according to Local Data Company research from June - its highest level since the measure was started in 2008.
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