U.K. Retail Sales Lose Steam as Firms, Shoppers Fret Over Prices
Pedestrians walk along a high street in Croydon, Greater London. (Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg)

U.K. Retail Sales Lose Steam as Firms, Shoppers Fret Over Prices

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U.K. retail sales growth lost momentum in August, with both shops and consumers pointing to concerns over higher prices.

The value of goods sold in shops and online grew 3% in August from a year earlier, the British Retail Consortium and KPMG said, less than the 3.9% recorded the same month in 2020.

Despite higher demand for clothing, especially as people returned to the office and social events such as weddings, BRC Chief Executive Helen Dickinson said retailers were “grappling with higher costs across the supply chain.” Staffing pressures and shortages of raw materials have meant some stores have had availability issues or been forced to hike prices.

A separate survey from Barclaycard, which handles almost half the credit and debit card payments in the U.K., found that almost two-thirds of consumers were worried that everyday items were becoming more expensive. The surveys come as the Bank of England expects inflation to peak at 4% this year, putting pressure on household spending.

Still, Barclaycard said the short-term picture was more upbeat, with consumer confidence at its highest since before the pandemic. Spending at bars, pubs and clubs reached its highest growth for over 17 months in August, compared with the same month in 2019. International travel was the only sector in which consumer spending didn’t grow, but it still saw less of a decline than in July as more destinations opened up to British holidaymakers.

“Socializing, shopping, and staycations were top of the agenda for Brits in August, as families and friends made the most of the school holidays, giving a welcome boost to hospitality and leisure businesses,” said Raheed Ahmed, head of consumer product at Barclays Bank Plc. “Over the coming months, these sectors should also benefit from Brits returning to the office, as colleagues enjoy long overdue catch-ups over post-work meals and drinks.”

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