Customer caution hits shops trade

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Shoppers have continued to keep their spending in check despite recent signs of hope for the UK economy, says the British Retail Consortium.

The trade body’s February sales monitor showed the value of business was down 0.3 per cent on a comparable basis with a year ago, the same drop as in January.

Total sales, including store openings, were up 2.3 per cent but with inflation at 3.6 per cent in January this still shows customers are buying less than a year ago.

The recent fall in inflation from above five per cent has eased the squeeze on household finances but with fuel prices again rising BRC director-general Stephen Robertson said there was no sign of a convincing revival for shops.

He added: “Unemployment is expected to rise further, causing increased nervousness about job security, which is keeping confidence fragile. Any sense of improving optimism is not yet translating into more spending.”

He repeated the BRC’s calls for the Chancellor to use the Budget to hold back business costs and support jobs, growth and a consumer turnaround.