16 February 2007, 17:58 PM
  • David Bush, head of Grant Thornton's retail services, urged retailers to “keep a sense of perspective” after the Office for National Statistics announced that January's 1.8% fall in sales was the sharpest since January 2003.

Grant Thornton is a leading UK adviser providing corporate recovery, turnaround and restructuring services to businesses and stakeholders. Mr Bush says, “Whilst these figures represent the largest fall in sales volumes from December to January since 2003, we would urge retailers to keep a sense of perspective and not to start predicting gloom and doom yet. January is traditionally the quietest month for sales and this year’s results are still a healthy 3.3% higher than this time last year.”

For instance, the total value of sales in January, which was calculated in the four weeks between December 31 and January 27, is estimated at £17.7 billion – which represents a 2.8% rise compared to the same period last year.

Mr Bush adds, “Retailers’ determination to hold off from promotional activity until after Christmas saw a flurry of sales commence in the last week of December. Generally, sales driven by promotional activity peaked immediately after Christmas and tailed away quickly in January. This largely caused the marked difference in volumes between December and January’s sales.”

The year-on-year growth rates, also released by the Office for National Statistics, are more positive for the food retail sector. The report indicates, “Annual growth for food stores increased to 2.5% from 2.3% in December, whilst that for non-food stores fell to 2.4% from 4.5%.”

The data were established from a monthly survey of 5,000 businesses in the UK. The sample represents the whole retail sector and includes all large retailers, as well as a representative panel of smaller businesses. The achieved response rate each month 85 to 90% of the total retail sales.