The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has said that “confidence is slowly but surely returning to the UK’s high streets” after retail sales values rose 1.8% like-for-like in August.
Online sales of non-food products also grew strongly, up 15.0% last month in comparison to the previous August.
The figures support Nielsen BookScan data which showed that book sales were also proving robust in August, with sales of hardback novels up 27% year-on-year in value terms. Overall printed book sales were up 4% once sales of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy were stripped out in the month.
David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said: “This is a solid performance by retailers and demonstrates that confidence is slowly but surely returning to the UK’s high streets. Such a retail revival is particularly welcome after the disappointing sales seen last summer.”
McCorquodale added that the results made him optimistic for a successful Christmas for retailers. “As summer fades to a close and the all-important approach to Christmas begins, retailers are turning their attention to their festive campaigns,” he said. “However, if sales continue in this vein we should be optimistic that retailers will enjoy a reasonably healthy Christmas.”
The BRC August sales results came a day after high street champion Mary Portas warned more work needed to be done to support high streets as shopping destinations. The retail guru appeared in front of the Communities and Local Government Committee at the House of Commons yesterday (2nd September) to answer questions on her Review of the High Street report, published in 2011.
In response to MPs who alleged her review had been a "waste of time" and a "failure", Portas argued that the government had failed to act on the 28 recommendations in her report and said that it needed to have a co-ordinated response to regenerate town centres. “It’s not going to be all about retail,” she said. “We need to create high streets that are destinations for communities. It will require thought and different types of shops as well as schools and health destinations.” She added that regenerating the high street was not Prime Minister David Cameron’s “top priority".
During the lively session, Portas also faced suggestions she had embarked on the review to benefit her television career, with one MP suggesting she had been “unduly influencing” government policy in a bid to “make TV programmes so you could get paid”.
However, this was robustly denied by Portas, who said that she chose to do a series on Britain’s town centres because “I believed it was the right thing.” Portas rebutted claims that the review was a waste of time, asserting she was still “fighting” for the report two years down the line.
Yesterday (2nd September), Focus DIY boss Bill Grimsey issued a warning over high street closures in the foreword of the Alternative Review of the High Street, due to be launched at the House of Commons on Wednesday.