International

UK Retail Starts 2016 Off Strong

A quick tour around the world of retail sales numbers from January will paint a pretty grim picture: Consumers aren’t buying as much as they were, and retailers are hurting for it. However, this isn’t the global phenomenon it’s being made out to be. In fact, one country actually started 2016 off with a promising month.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) announced Tuesday (Feb. 9) that retail sales in the British Isles had risen by about 2.6 percent in like-to-like sales and 3.3 percent overall last month compared to Jan. 2015. These figures represent a massive improvement of both the U.K. retail economy’s three-month (1.6 percent) and 12-month (1.9 percent) averages, and they have Helen Dickinson, CEO of the BRC, optimistic for the future.

“Retailers will welcome the positive start to what will be a momentous year for the industry,” Dickinson said in a statement. “Next month, the Treasury will report back on its long-awaited review of the business rates system. This is the moment for the government to rebalance this tax away from property-intensive industries in order to ensure that the introduction of the living wage does not have unintended consequences on our local communities and jobs.”

David McCorquodale, head of U.K. retail at KPMG, identified fashion and home furnishings as the categories responsible for steady growth in January. Consumers also went for luxury fashion items and designer footwear goods based on post-holiday sales. And while January might have treated U.K. retailers better than their counterparts in other countries, McCorquodale said that there are even more reasons to remain hopeful as the calendar pages fall.

“Heading into February, retailers will be turning attention to the next big promotional event in the calendar, Valentine’s Day, and hoping to take a decent share of consumer spend as they’ll be facing stiff competition from both the experiential and leisure sectors,” McCorquodale explained.

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