British official retail sales dip after riots

15th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

British retail sales fell by 0.2 percent in August compared with July as rioting across England shut shops and high inflation hit shoppers' spending power, official data showed on Thursday.

Retail sales were flat in August compared with the figure for the same month in 2010, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement.

It added that although rioting across England in early August "resulted in some stores closing early, thereby reducing their opening hours ... The economic impact of these closures cannot be (totally) measured."

This was because of "feedback from some retailers that they saw increases in sales due to changes in shopping behaviour" caused by the rioting.

Unrest that began in London after police shot a man dead in the capital spread to major English cities Birmingham and Manchester, leaving shops looted and burned as well as five people dead.

August's retail data was meanwhile broadly in line with expectations, according to a poll by Dow Jones Newswires that showed analysts had forecast a month-on-month drop of 0.2 percent and annual drop of 0.1 percent.

"While the 0.2 percent fall in retail sales in August was broadly in line with expectations, the drop is nevertheless a further blow to third-quarter growth prospects given the importance of consumer spending," said Howard Archer, chief European economist at research group IHS Global Insight.

"Consumer confidence is very low, with purchasing power under severe pressure from high inflation, muted wage growth and tighter fiscal policy.

"Indeed, a sharp jump in utility charges in August has added to the squeeze on many consumers. Meanwhile, unemployment is now rising appreciably and the jobs outlook is looking increasingly worrisome," Archer added.

© 2011 AFP

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