Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive, BRC:
“It was a meagre month in October for retail sales as shopping activity slumped. With total growth at its lowest since May and below the 12-month average, retailers will have cause for concern as they prepare for the crucial run up to Christmas.
“The decline was driven by the worst performance of non-food sales since our record began in January 2011, as consumers appear to have opted for outdoor experiences and excursions during half term, over visits to the shops. The growth in food sales meanwhile, adds some colour to this otherwise anaemic picture, but these figures are very much buoyed by inflation.
“Real consumer spending power has been on a downward trend in the last year as the acceleration in inflation has caused shoppers to become ever more cautious in considering what purchases they can afford. Many now face higher borrowing costs, given the rise in interest rates, which will only serve to heap further pressure onto household finances.
“Considering the intrinsic link between consumer spending and economic growth, the Chancellor should reflect on this disappointing state of play and deliver a Budget that allays the risks of a further slowdown in consumer spending, by keeping down the cost of living. In other words, a shoppers Budget.”
Paul Martin, Head of Retail, KPMG:
“October marked yet another reversal of fortunes for retailers, reinforcing just how volatile consumer spend has been. Despite the positive picture last month, these latest figures will be a real disappointment and not the start to the golden quarter retailers had hoped for.
“Clothing sales were particularly hard hit. After a brief uptick, fashion sales reverted back to the dreary theme we have seen for a number of months this year. Unseasonably warm weather last month will not have helped, but this is unlikely to be the only reason the new ranges are proving unpopular.
“Overall growth online was lacklustre at best, although health and beauty products continued to stand out as a strong performer. The burning questions for retailers will be whether shoppers are holding off their purchases until Black Friday, and whether retailers can recover from this month’s poor performance to end the year on a high.
“With the Bank of England’s interest rate decision seeing the first hike in ten years, we are likely to see a continuation of the sector's slow-down, with consumers having less disposable income to spend. The Autumn Budget also nears closer and retailers will most likely be hoping for some form of relief, particularly after the challenges business rates created.”
Food & Drink sector performance, Joanne Denney-Finch, Chief Executive, IGD:
“Food and grocery sales have remained buoyant with another month of above inflation growth, perhaps benefiting from cutbacks elsewhere in household spending. However, with 77 per cent of shoppers expressing concern about the state of the economy and 79 per cent about living costs, a mood of caution prevails. A fifth (20 per cent) say they will focus more on saving money in their food and grocery shopping in the year ahead – the record highest level since September 2016.”