Blog: UK retailers question latest official sales figures
Dean Best | 18 November 2011
Headlines here in the UK yesterday (17 November) described how there had been a "surprise" jump in the volume of retail sales in the country in October. The data, however, stunned UK retailers, who immediately questioned the figures.
Data from the Office for National Statistics said sales volumes increased 0.9% year-on-year, leading to a 5.4% rise in the value of sales.
The ONS said retailers had told it the increase in sales was due to pre-Christmas sales and in-store promotions.
According to the ONS, food stores saw their volumes increase by 0.3% year-on-year. Food industry commentators and executives have pointed to falling volumes for months and the ONS said the increase was the first since April.
However, the data was cast into doubt by UK retailers association The British Retail Consortium, which said the ONS had painted an "overly positive picture" of trading conditions.
The BRC said its own data had shown that sales had increased by only 1.5% in value terms in October, indicating that volumes were down once inflation was taken into account.
"Most retailers won't recognise the overly positive picture being painted by these ONS results," BRC director general Stephen Robertson said. "The reality is disposable incomes are down on a year ago and customers are cutting back."
He added: "Even food sales are suffering as people cut back or switch to cheaper brands in an effort to balance their household budgets. Stores are competing hard for what customer spending is available but consumers are overwhelmingly gloomy. Sales that happen come at the cost of reduced margins as retailers cut prices while facing higher business costs."
Robertson's comments echo those made by Dalton Philips, the chief executive of the UK's fourth-largest grocer Morrisons, earlier this week.
"It's tough out there. The consumer is feeling really bruised," Philips said. "It's going to be a tough Christmas."
Philips, however, said Morrisons was "well prepared" for one of the most competitive periods of the year and outlined a promotional push that he said would deliver savings of GBP100m.
Nevertheless, you can be sure that rivals Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury's also have their sleeves rolled up, ready for battle.
A year after union officials alleged Fyffes abused workers on plantations in Central America - and called on the produce giant to be kicked out of the Ethical Trading Initiative forum - the company is...
Much of the chatter about where 3G Capital could look next has centred on packaged food - but might the private-equity fund be about to extend its foodservice empire?...
Headlines that Mead Johnson's board has backed Reckitt Benckiser's takeover bid will no doubt overshadow the other news on the group this week – that it is facing a US lawsuit from a “whistle blower” ...
Kantar Worldpanel issued its monthly supermarket share data in the UK this morning - and the numbers showed a change in the identity of the country's top five food retailers....
- Does Kraft Heinz want to swallow Unilever whole?
- Focus: Nestle CEO plan to balance sales, earnings
- US food next wave on display at Winter Fancy Food
- Comment: Meal kits in US - don't believe the hype
- Why Reckitt Benckiser moved for Mead Johnson
- Kraft Heinz pursuing Unilever in takeover move
- Kraft Heinz pulls Unilever bid
- General Mills issues profit warning
- Kerry operating earnings strengthen on slow sales
- Kerry Group staff in Ireland suspend strike action