UK

January Sales Tempt Consumers On To The High Street, As Brits Prove They Still Love A Bargain

05/02/2013 10:13 GMT

Shoppers were tempted out with new year offers and promotions, according to sales figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC), bringing hope to retailers after a disappointing 2012.

Like-for-like January retail sales grew 1.9% on the previous year, with shoppers buying televisions, tablet computers and smartphones. Wellington boot sales were also boosted by the snow.

BRC director general Helen Dickinson said that while sales initially suffered during the cold snap, it failed to cancel out the positive showing across the month.

Speaking to the Press Association, she said: "People were tempted out by offers and promotions but also treated themselves to full-priced and premium products early in January, particularly must-have technology items.

"These factors, coupled with recovering consumer confidence, have added up to a more successful January than we saw last year."

Shoppers' desire for more cold weather gear, including knitwear hats and scarves, had a negative impact on the sales of spring and summer collections however, and supermarkets' cheaper ranges kept shoppers from spending in high street clothing retailers.

Online sales growth also slowed after the Christmas peak, dropping to 10% growth in January. Analysts believe this is due to consumers being put off online shopping by worries that delivery vans would get stuck in the snow.

All eyes will now turn to the next round of gross domestic product figures, as the nation waits to see if the spending boost helped the UK to avoid a triple-dip recession.

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said the January sales figures gave retailers reasons to be cheerful and were a strong start to what is anticipated to be a tough year.

He said: "While technology advances may have hastened the demise of HMV, Blockbuster and Jessops, many retailers will look back at the last two months with pride after implementing successful seasonal campaigns where they have served the customer well."

But he warned that sales were only one side of the equation and only time would tell about the true cost of promotions and margin squeezes used to drive sales.

Britain is still a depressed nation when it comes to job prospects though; The percentage of Brits feeling positive about finding work is now 23%, 1% higher than the European average. In France, that figure is just 6%, while in Germany 45% of people are optimistic about finding a job.

In addition, more than half of Britons (56%) are switching to cheaper grocery brands (compared to 61% in France and 64% in Germany) and just 22% of people in the UK say they have spare cash once they’ve covered essential living expenses, according to figures from the Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions.