Retail sales up ahead of VAT rise


Retail sales volumes picked up in October amid signs that shoppers brought forward purchases ahead of January’s rise in VAT to 20%.

The 0.5% increase announced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) represented a turnaround from two months of sales declines, although the performance was still 0.1% lower than the same month a year earlier.

The growth in sales volumes was driven by non-food stores, including demand in textile, clothing and footwear shops.

Howard Archer, chief European economist at IHS Insight, described the sales growth as “decent but unspectacular”.

He added: “It is likely that retail sales will benefit to a limited extent in the final weeks of this year from consumers looking to make purchases of more expensive items ahead of the January VAT increase from 17.5% to 20%.

“Retailers will also be fervently hoping that consumers decide to splash out and have a good Christmas despite their worries and uncertainties over the economic outlook.”

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