This time of year is usually bustling with activity as shoppers prepare for the Christmas holiday yet this year fears of an impending recession have kept shoppers subdued. According to the most recent survey compiled by the British Retail Consortium, BRC, shoppers are reluctant to part with their money. Although sales were up in November by 0.7% above the same month of last year, they are down by 1.6% overall in the year in like-for-like sales.

The monthly survey also indicates that not only retail shops but online revenue is down as well with shoppers being overly cautious in their spending. A three month period of September to November shows that sales have been up overall by 1.7% this year but again, on a like-for-like were down by 0.6%. The reason why figures appear to show sales up is due largely to the ‘food wars’ amongst the large supermarket chains where sales are drawing in customers.

Sales of food is up whilst non food items have fallen by 0.5% which shows what Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC, calls a ‘worrying lack of cheer.’ He bases this on the fact that November’s figures are the weakest rise within the past half year and at a time when holiday spirit tends to make retail and food sales soar. As well, the UK has had milder temperatures than normal for this season which is causing a slowdown in the sales of winter clothing.

With stores trying to outdo each other with sales and discounts, it would seem as though retail sales would be up yet high street and other city merchants are not showing the increases which would be expected.  As a result, it is expected that the fourth quarter of 2011 will show little growth, if any, and further contraction is forecast for the first quarter of 2012.

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