RSM comments on latest retail sales figures for October

Commenting on the latest official retail sales figures for October published by the Office of National Statistics, Andrew Westbrook, RSM's head of retail said:

'While sales volumes and values fell in October by 0.1 per cent versus the previous month, the year on year numbers look slightly healthier – up 3.1 and 3.3 per cent respectively. However, these numbers may be masking the deep discounting that many have had to offer to coax shoppers into parting with their money. While this might have helped shift stock, it won't have helped lift already wafer-thin profit margins.

'Continued Brexit uncertainty hit consumer confidence levels and the weather in October was a wash-out leaving many to do their shopping at home. As a result, online sales as a proportion of all retailing increased to 19.2 per cent. High street operators were left to fight it out between themselves to attract the brave souls who ventured out. 

'All eyes will now be on the all-important weeks leading up to Christmas. Many retailers will have stocked up in anticipation of the UK's supposed exit from the EU in October so the pressure will be on to turn that stock into hard cash. 

'In theory, there should be reasons for optimism. Employment rates are still historically high and wages are tracking around 2 percentage points above inflation. Consumers may be biding their time hoping for a bargain bonanza on Black Friday and in the run-up to Christmas. This could be make or break time for many retail brands.'