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UK Retail Sales Rise Most Since Late 2009: BRC

UK retail sales grew at the fastest pace since 2009 as consumers resorted to stockpiling amid rising Covid-19 cases, data from the British Retail Consortium revealed Tuesday.

Total retail sales grew 5.6 percent annually in September versus a 0.6 percent drop a year ago. This was the fastest growth since December 2009, excluding Easter distortions.

Similarly, like-for-like sales increased 6.1 percent, in contrast to a 1.3 percent decrease in the same period last year.

Over the three months to September, food sales increased 5.1 percent on a like-for-like basis and 5.6 percent on a total basis. This was higher than the 12-month total average growth of 3.8 percent.

At the same time, non-food retail sales increased by 5.2 percent on a like-for-like basis and 3.2 percent on a total basis.

September sales have also given retailers early signs that consumers are starting their Christmas shopping earlier this year, which retailers are encouraging their customers to do in order to manage demand at Christmas and keep people safe, Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive at BRC, said. However, store-based sales, excluding food are still in double digit decline.

Susan Barratt, chief executive at the grocery consultancy IGD, said late September has seen some stockpiling as shoppers react to rising Covid-19 cases and possible further restrictions, although this is far from the level of panic buying experienced in March.

Speculation concerning further lockdown measures and a possible no deal EU exit is leading to uncertainty among shoppers, with IGD's Shopper Confidence Index remaining low but stable, Barratt noted.

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