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Retail sales shake off Brexit blip to deliver solid summer

Retail sales overcame a "blip" in the days following the EU referendum to post a solid summer, with online shopping benefiting from July's heatwave, according to new figures.

The British Retail Consortium said online sales of non-food products grew by 11.2 per cent in July compared with a year earlier. This was lower than the above-trend growth of 14.7 per cent seen in July 2015 but up from last month and in line with the 12-month average of 11.1 per cent. Online sales continue to outperform total sales, it added.

In the three months to July, online sales were up 11.1 per cent year-on-year.

Over the same period, in-store sales fell by one per cent on a total basis and by 1.3 per cent on a like-for-like basis. The pace of decline slowed in July but remains firmly in negative territory.

In July, online sales accounted for 20.4 per cent of total non-food sales in the UK, up from 19.4 per cent a year earlier. The rate has been above 20 per cent for seven consecutive months now, although it is down from a peak of 22.4 per cent in November.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: "Online (non-food) sales echoed the performance of total sales this month, with growth rising back to the 12-month average. The brief drop-off in online sales activity in the few days following the referendum turned out to be a blip as consumers, who had turned their attentions to browsing for details about the EU, quickly returned to spending online.

"As with in-store sales, there was widespread promotional activity in July. That is usual for this time of year, although a number of retailers undertook longer and broader promotions as a result of the substantial accumulated stock resulting from a sluggish first half of 2016. We'll have to watch and wait to see if the success of promotions spills over on to full price sales.

"While there doesn't appear to be much sign of the reported fall in consumer confidence feeding into sales, with the rapid and multi-faceted evolution of internet centred technology, customers are becoming increasingly savvy and expectant of low prices. Given the fierce competition in the market, retailers have little choice but to rise to the challenge."

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, added: " Women's fashion and accessories performed positively compared to the slump in June as the July heatwave coupled with seasonal sales spurred summery purchases.

"Elsewhere, families took advantage of timely e-promotions boosting sales of outdoor toys so that the kids could make the most of the July heatwave. Sales of household appliances and furniture also surged as consumers purchased outdoor tables, chairs and barbecues to maximize the alfresco dining experience.

"Despite this, penetration rates dipped slightly by 0.2 percentage point as more shoppers hit the high street in the warmer weather. While online remains a key shopping avenue, retailers need to continue to ensure consistency of experience across all channels in order to maintain the attraction of both the virtual and physical aisles to their consumers."

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