September 3, 2018 / 11:26 PM / 15 days ago

UK retailers report lackluster sales as shoppers head to the pub

LONDON (Reuters) - British retailers reported sluggish sales growth last month as potential shoppers chose to make the most of this summer’s record hot weather and spend money at the pub instead.

FILE PHOTO: People's shadows are seen as shoppers are silhouetted in the bright sunshine at the Westfield shopping centre, Stratford, London January, 28, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce/File Photo

The British Retail Consortium said on Tuesday that shops reported total spending was up just 1.3 percent on a year earlier, the weakest growth since November last year, apart from a big dip in April due to the timing of the Easter holiday.

By contrast, a broader measure of consumer spending by Barclaycard (BARC.L), which processes just under half of card payments in Britain, rose by 4.5 percent in August — boosted by an 11.9 percent year-on-year jump in spending at pubs.

British weather forecasters say 2018 has been the joint-hottest summer since records began in 1910, though temperatures in August were closer to average than those in June and July.

Supermarkets, pubs and restaurants have benefited from the hot weather, and the earlier soccer World Cup, as Britons enjoyed barbecues and eating and drinking outside.

By contrast, clothing sales suffered last month as shoppers delayed buying autumn ranges.

The BRC said a broader squeeze on consumers from above-target inflation and sluggish wage growth was denting spending on goods other than food, and that as the weather cooled later in August food sales dropped off too.

Online sales continued to hurt traditional retailers, and total in-store sales of non-food items fell by the most since records for this category began in January 2012, down by 2.2 percent on the year.

Looking ahead, Barclaycard said a third of people it surveyed planned to rein in spending this autumn.

“Many customers are planning to tighten their belts and keep a closer eye on their finances after spending more than usual over the summer,” Barclaycard director Esme Harwood said.

The BRC data were based on sales over the four weeks to Aug. 25, while the Barclaycard figures come from transactions between July 22 and Aug. 18, as well as a survey of 1,697 consumers conducted by market research company YouGov on Aug. 20-21.

Reporting by David Milliken; editing by David Stamp

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