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Confusion over Christmas forecasts

Published: 24 October 2008
Differing figures and reports leave sales predictions open to speculation for festive period.
Confusion over Christmas forecasts
Something any consumer or retailer will have noticed over the last few months is that everyone has an opinion on how the country will fare over the coming months.

However, a spate of reports, predictions and market analyses has only served to send a confused message and cause further scaremongering on the high street.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported a 0.6% increase in non-food store sales in the three months July to September. It also revealed that total sales volume in the three months to September was 2.3% higher than the same period last year - the lowest growth since April 2006.

Sales were also shown to have slowed significantly between August and September with a 1.1% drop in sales volume for predominantly non-food stores in the one-month period.

More encouragingly the ONS did reveal a 3% year-on-year increase in sales values for September 2008. This however, was disputed by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), who agrees with ONS' findings that sales growth slowed sharply into September, but believes the 3% figure is too optimistic.

Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC, said: "With a number of retailers reporting serious sales falls, the ONS' claim that sales values are up 3% on a year ago seems high. Our figure is just 1%".

He added: "ONS' claims that small retailers are doing dramatically better than larger ones is hard to believe."

This is topped off by research company Verdict's predictions for Christmas 2008, which stated that life is going to be 'particularly tough' for non-food retailers and that, "Unless they can stand out from the crowd with a compelling offer, they will be passed over by far more selective consumers."

It added that home related specialists will be the 'biggest losers' and predicts that Q1 of 2009 will be even tougher for retailers with consumers holing back on 'unnecessary spending', leading to 'further retail casualties'.

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