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December 18, 2008    

Unexpected rise in UK retail sales

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by Kay Murchie

Figures from the Office for National Statistics have revealed that there was a surprise rise in UK retail sales last month.

Sales volumes rose 0.3% in November and are up 1.5% on last year.

The latest surveys have indicated that trading is down and analysts had been expecting retail sales to fall 0.6% in November.

The growth was driven by household goods, which were up 3.9% last month - the largest monthly increase since July 2007. Meanwhile, food sales were up 0.2%, however, clothing and footwear sales were down.

Retailers have been anticipating their worst Christmas period for years and have been tempting shoppers with discount days and December sales.

Marks and Spencer has held two sales in the last few weeks, while Debenhams has held three-day sales and Tesco, Britain’s largest supermarket, held a one-day sale last week offering 50% off Christmas goods.

Stephen Robertson of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said the figures were hard to explain but indicated that promotions and the VAT cut could be attributed to the unexpected rise.

In a bid to boost sales even further, supermarket giants Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s are to open some of their larger stores on Boxing Day. There is speculation that other retailers will feel under pressure to follow suit.

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