House market boost helps retailers



Britain's housing market revival helped retailers enjoy their best sales growth for six months in August amid a surge in demand for homewares, according to new figures.

BDO's monthly high street tracker showed like-for-like sales across the retail sector, excluding online, increased by 3.5% last month, helped by an "exceptional" performance from homewares, which saw sales rise by more than a fifth - the strongest result for six years.

The report suggested retailers were also helped as the cooler weather prompted people to hit the shops after putting off purchases amid the heatwave.

Don Williams, national head of retail and wholesale at accountancy firm BDO, said: "The damp weather over the past few weeks has coincided with the launch of autumn/winter lines, making these wares more popular than might have been expected."
He added that alongside the resurgent housing market, consumer confidence is also improving with people "less fearful of imminent restructurings and redundancy" as the recovery takes hold.

"Consumers arguably have less cash in their pockets than they did 12 months ago, as wage increases continue to lag behind inflation - but if they feel a little more confident, they are more inclined to spend," he said.

Fashion sales recovered from sharp declines in previous months to edge 0.3% lower in August, while non-fashion saw an 8.7% hike amid strong demand for gifts and items from department stores.

Online sales growth picked up again in August, to 26.7% against a rise of 20.3% a year earlier, the report found.

BDO tracked sales at around 85 non-grocery retailers with annual sales of between £5 million and £500 million.

It is the latest sign of improving health in the retail sector after official figures recently showed sales rose by 1.1% in July on a month earlier and were up 3% year-on-year - the steepest rise for two and a half years.

© 2013 Press Association