LONDON, NOV 17 - Early pre-Christmas sales gave a surprise lift to British retail sales in October, driving up volumes at the fastest pace since June, the Office for National Statistics said on Thursday.



It suggests that the high street is still holding up pretty despite the squeeze in household real incomes, but it looks like that's partly only because retailers have been engaging in discounting activities, and of course spending off the high street is still pretty weak.


Surprising would be the word. The strength of these numbers wasn't evident from the survey data we saw from the likes of the CBI or the BRC.

We'll have to attribute this to a bit of noise, the ONS data do contain quite a volatile component within them. It is quite surprising and I'm treating this as a rogue figure.

Consumers haven't gone into meltdown but I don't think they'll be spending on a sustainable basis along the lines of these figures in the future. Let's put this behind us, move on and expect more flaccid numbers in the months to come.


A very pleasant surprise. The odd thing in the numbers is that one of the main contributors to the rise was sales of clothing and footwear.

That was possible even though shops raised prices of clothing and footwear more than usual. The rising price of clothing and footwear was one of the main drivers of the CPI data earlier in the week.

However welcome, I can't see this lasting. The state of the high street is bloody and the downward pressure on the consumer are still immense. I see this as a blip, and I think we can expect weakened sales in the future.


These figures are remarkably buoyant especially given that Nationwide consumer confidence fell to series low.

One suspects that promotion activity was a major driver and the underlying pace of consumer activity is struggling.

Our guess would be that you get one month of sales volume contraction or possibly two over the fourth quarter. I wouldn't get too optimistic on the back of this one month's numbers.


They are surprisingly strong. They can be very volatile, so I wouldn't read very much into one month's number.

The second point is that I would expect these figures to be a lot weaker going forward because the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) and the BRC (British Retail Consortium) numbers would have suggested something softer than this and also incomes continue to contract.

We have got rising energy bills which are going to be received by consumers over the next six months and I think it is going to be a challenging period over Christmas.

(UK Economics Desk)