July retail growth "modest", amid poor book market

July retail growth "modest", amid poor book market

July retail sales saw a modest improvement, according to figures from the British Retail consortium, though book sales fell to their lowest level for seven years with food continuing to outperform non-food items.

UK retail sales values were 0.6% higher on a like-for-like basis from July 2010, when sales had risen 0.5%. On a total basis, sales were up 2.5%, against a 2.6% increase in July 2010. Helen Dickinson, head of retail, KPMG, said: “July was a better month than June, seeing an improving trend for the food sector and an uplift for clothing when the good weather finally kicked in. However, retailers of big-ticket items continue to find the market conditions challenging, with customers still reluctant to make major spending commitments."

Book sales fell to their lowest level in seven years, as e-books and readers increased in popularity, the BRC said. Fiction was hardest hit, while non-fiction was boosted by several celebrity cookery book and memoirs. Computer and electronic games were slow.

Last week Nielsen BookScan data showed that spending on physical books in July slumped to its lowest level in seven years as e-books continue to encroach onto traditional bookseller territory. According to Nielsen BookScan data, £111.5m was spent on printed books in the four weeks to 30th July - up 6% (£6m) month-on-month, but down 8% (£9.7m) on July last year. Volume sales over the four-week period were down 9% (1.6m) year-on-year, to 15.8m, while average selling prices rose 1% (eight pence) to £7.05.

There was better news for internet, mail-order and phone sales, though growth slowed to its lowest level for "almost two years". Sales were 9.6% higher than a year ago, compared with 11.5% in June and 11.3% in July 2010. Stephen Robertson, director general, BRC, said: "Apart from March, when sales were reduced by this year's later Easter, this is the weakest growth for non-store sales of non-food goods for almost two years. The long-term progress of online retailing means internet shopper numbers and how much they're buying continue to increase but the squeeze on household budgets is causing that to slow as people cut back where they can."

"This is good growth compared with the high street where non-food sales are barely growing at all but it's well down on the double-digit results we've seen for non-store sales in most of the months since we began this measure in October 2008."