‘Black cloud’ for retailers ahead of Christmas as spending drops at fastest rate in 4 years

Concerns about retail sales over the crucial Christmas period have been heightened by new figures showing a big slump in spending in October.

IHS Markit and Visa’s UK consumer spending index for October shows:

  • Spending down 2% compared to the same month a year earlier, the fastest annual fall since September 2013;
  • High Street sales fell by 5%, the second-steepest drop since April 2012;
  • Clothing and footwear sales fell by 9%, the worst ever drop recorded by IHS and Visa.

The data covers all of the spending across the Visa network, which accounts for £1 in every £3 spent across the UK. It’s the fifth time in sixth months the survey has registered a decline in consumer spending, highlighting the on-going consumer squeeze and the tough environment many retailers are battling against.

Mark Antipof, Visa’s chief commercial officer, said in a statement: “The pre-Christmas trading season got off to a poor start for retailers with October spending falling at the fastest rate in over four years. The figures are a stark indicator of the strain on household budgets even before the Bank of England’s recent interest rate rise.

“Retailers will now be pinning their hopes on strong performance around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. November’s data will, therefore, provide the first real clue on how Christmas is shaping up.”

Visa highlighted a rapid decline in shopping on the High Street as the main driver for October’s fall. A separate survey from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and retail consultancy Springboard on Monday found a 2% drop in footfall — the number of people visiting — High Streets in October.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard’s marketing and insights director, said in a statement: “October delivered a black trading cloud ahead of the Christmas sales storm.

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