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UK retail sees uptick, but challenges remain for retailers

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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In response to the latest ONS Retail Sales Index figures, which indicated a 5.2 percent increase in sales by value and a 0.7 percent increase by volume, Kris Hamer, Director of Insight at the British Retail Consortium, conveyed optimistic sentiments.

Sales volumes witnessed an uptick for the second time in three months, marking a positive shift from the preceding 19 months of decline. This upturn reflects growing consumer confidence and a seasonal boost from January sales, with notable performances in categories like computing, cosmetics, and toiletries.

Hamer acknowledged that while food sales continued to outpace non-food sales, primarily due to increased inflation on these products, shoppers maintained a cautious approach as they entered the third year of grappling with the high cost of living.

Emphasizing the pivotal role of the retail sector in driving household spending and contributing to economic growth across the UK, Hamer urged the future government to recognize the sector's significance. He highlighted the challenges posed by a cumulative cost burden resulting from various policies, including rises in business rates, inadequate recycling proposals, and new border control costs.

“It is vital that our future Government recognises the importance of retail considering the cumulative cost burden created by new and existing policies. Business rates’ rises, inadequate recycling proposals, new border control costs; only by addressing these issues can the next Government unlock further investment for the country and boost local and national economic growth,” Hamer said in a statement.

Earlier this month the Treasury said it will reassess the 'tourist tax' related to VAT-free shopping in anticipation of the spring Budget, hinting at the possibility of abandoning the policy, providing a potential uplift for the retail sector.