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Thursday, 18 October, 2001, 10:22 GMT 11:22 UK
Sales growth slows at UK stores
London market
UK retail sales grew in September, if by less than in previous months
High Street stores have again enjoyed increased sales, although Britons' love affair with shopping appears to be waning, a report has revealed.

The volume of sales at UK stores rose 0.2% last month, the Office for National Statistics said, in a report awaited by analysts as a key indicator of how September's terror attacks affected the UK economy.

Trade was 5.9% greater last month than in September last year, the ONS said.

The figures disappointed many City experts, who had been expecting stronger growth, after earlier surveys suggested that UK shoppers had continued their shopping spree.

"Retail sales came in on the soft side of expectations," said Jeremy Hawkins, at Bank of America.

But other observers took heart at the continued, if slower, growth in UK sales against a backdrop of a global economic downturn.

"Retail sales growth is still very strong in volume terms. It shows great resilience from the consumer," said Richard Iley, an economist at ABN Amro.

Food sales slide

The report revealed a sharp slowdown in food sales but strong trade at clothing and footwear stores.

But analysts said it was difficult to say whether the slowdown in overall sales growth could be blamed on concerns stemming from the attacks on the US.

"It was difficult to assess whether there was any impact on sales... but we did not notice anything in particular," a statistician said.

Comparison with last year's figures was made more difficult by the impact of last autumn's fuel blockades, the statistician added.

While London shares were sharply lower in Thursday trade, stocks fell long before the retail sales data were released.

Taking three-monthly figures, which analysts use as a more accurate indicator of underlying trends, food, drink and tobacco sales rose by 6% between July and September.

Sales of clothing and footwear rose 8%, while sales of household goods rose by 6%.

The BBC's Jenny Scott
"This year's spending across the UK has appeared to have held up reasonably well"
See also:

20 Jul 01 | Business
UK retail sales stagnate
09 Oct 01 | Business
Is this the big turnaround for M&S?
16 Oct 01 | Business
Tesco creates new stores and jobs
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