Feb 6, 2018
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UK January spending rises on inflation says BRC, fashion better than expected

Feb 6, 2018

UK retail sales just about managed to rise in January with a total increase of 1.4% year-on-year and a comparable rise of just 0.6%. 


But it was inflation and necessities that supplied much of the growth with many non-food categories suffering as consumers spent their cash on essentials, although fashion didn’t do too badly in the circumstances.

British Retail Consortium (BRC) data showed overall January sales roughly matching the anaemic growth seen in December and coming in below the three-month average. 

Analysts said it all means that while retail sales aren’t exactly tanking in the current tough environment, they’re far from buoyant and non-essential product categories are having a challenging time of it.

That’s clear from two figures for the three months to January - food sales rose 2.9% in the pre- and post-Christmas period while non-foods dropped 1.2%. Given that inflation’s running at around 3%, that means the food sector’s rise looks less impressive and the non-food sector’s fall looks downright problematic.


However, there was a little bit of good news. Non-food goods rose 5.3% online in January, albeit a figure that lagged the 8% rise of a year ago. And in physical stores, fashion did reasonably well. That could be partly because shoppers bought cold weather clothing at a discount in the January sales, which means fashion was almost an ‘essential’ last month given the onset of chilly weather.

But it seems that new-in product also did better than expected, although the BRC didn’t say exactly how well. “Clothing bucked the winter trend for the non-food categories. Some retailers were able to scale back promotions, having shifted more of their stock during the festive sales than last year, and saw encouraging early demand for their new season ranges," Helen Dickinson, BRC Chief Executive, said.

But overall, the picture isn’t that positive for non-food ales generally and Barclaycard’s monthly retail sales report seemed to support the BRC’s figures with consumer spending up 3.9% in January as groceries rose 4.1% but non-foods fell 3.8%.

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