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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 December, 2003, 10:27 GMT
Weakest retail sales since summer
Christmas shoppers
Shoppers on London's main Oxford Street
High Street sales of clothes and shoes slowed in the UK in November after the Bank of England raised interest rates, new figures show.

The Office for National Statistics(ONS) says retail sales growth slowed sharply last month to its weakest since July.

It said sales grew by just 0.7% after three months of very strong growth, to give an annual growth rate of 3.7%.

The slowdown was particularly marked in department stores, and in the textiles, clothing and footwear sectors.

Wet weather

The data is in line with analysts' forecasts, and contain nothing to suggest a marked slowdown in consumer spending.

The number of shopping trips may have been reduced because of the wet weather and the Rugby Union World Cup.

But the increase in interest rates announced at the start of November - the first for nearly four years - may also have had an impact on spending plans.

The three-monthly growth rate, which irons out monthly fluctuations, showed a rise of 1.4 % from the previous three months and an annual rate of 3.8 %.

Since July, growth for non-food stores has consistently been higher than that for food stores.

In the past 12 months increases were strongest for the clothing sector, sports retailers, mobile phones and electronic games stores.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones
"Britain's retailers are having a hard time keeping one step ahead of shoppers"



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