Like-for-like sales increased 3.5% in September, their fastest rise this year, according to figures from BDO, the accountancy firm that tracks trading across UK stores, reports the Financial Times.
Many retailers have experienced a poor summer with shopping levels down as events, including the London Olympics, diverted people’s attention. The September figures mark a positive start for the run-up to Christmas, for most retailers a critical period retailers in which about half of all sales are made.
Don Williams, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: “This was the first time this year that we have seen an interesting increase. There is slightly less depression around.”
The rise comes after a 0.5% fall in trading in August and a 2.9% dip in July. A number of retailers have gone into administration following difficult trading this year, including JJB Sports, Peacocks, Clinton Cards and Blacks Leisure.
Last week, however, brought Positive signs from retailers including Sainsbury's and Halfords.
Williams cautioned that it was still too early to call the end of the recession. September’s increase came against very weak figures last year, when an autumn heatwave caused retail sales to fall more than 5%.
“Today’s consumer is still very cautious and considered, and retailers have to work very hard to get any share of sales,” Mr Williams said.
He added that BDO was expecting retail sales to be up about 1.5-2% this year.
Shops selling clothing, gifts and leisure items reported increases, but shopping for homewares was down 5.3%. Williams said shoppers remained cautious about spending on large items, such as sofas and white goods, especially with prices of more than £250.
He said said: “People are treating themselves to clothes or bags, but they are deferring spending on homewares, and making do with that uncomfortable sofa or old mattress for a little longer.”
Sales over the internet continued to grow by more than 32% in September. Williams said online shopping had been growing at rates consistently between 15 and 40% each month. Internet sales now account for about 10-15% of all sales in each category.