High street sales collapse as fuel shortages bite

Fuel shortages have hit high street shops, with sales slowing to levels last seen during lockdown, a major report has found.

Retailers saw their post-pandemic recovery stall last month as sales growth plunged to the weakest performance since January, according to the study by the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Meanwhile, separate figures from Barclaycard revealed that consumer confidence also dipped sharply amid concerns over fuel and supplies.

The joint report from BRC and KPMG, one of the Big Four accountancy firms, showed that total sales increased by 0.6 per cent in September against the same month last year, compared with an average of 3.1 per cent growth for the past three months.

Like-for-like sales were 0.6 per cent lower for September, compared with the same month in 2020.

Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of BRC, said: “September saw the slowest retail sales growth since January, when the UK was in lockdown.

“There are signs that consumer confidence is being hit as the fuel shortages, combined with wetter weather, had an impact in the second half of the month.”

She added that this particularly affected larger purchases, such as furniture and homeware.

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, said: “Fuel panic-buying brought into sharp focus the impact supply chain bottlenecks and labour shortages can quickly have for consumers. 

“The energy crisis is set to have further impact on inflation levels, putting pressure on household spending, and retailers will be hoping for some good news from the Chancellor in his budget to help them manage rising costs.”

KPMG says fuel panic-buying showed the impact supply chain bottlenecks and labour shortages could quickly have for consumers

Credit: Andrew Steven Graham/Alamy

Elsewhere, Barclaycard said its latest consumer spending data for September showed that consumers were starting to feel the impact of rising prices on their finances.

It also found that nearly half of shoppers – 46 per cent – said they saw empty shelves in supermarkets, while 18 per cent found it harder than usual to find fresh fruit and vegetables.

The number of Britons who felt confident in their ability to buy non-essential items fell four percentage points in September to 59 per cent, from 63 per cent in August, pulling consumer confidence down to its lowest reading since February.

Raheel Ahmed, head of consumer products at Barclaycard, said: “Consumers are starting to feel the impact of rising prices on their personal finances, which is also hampering confidence levels.

“While this is causing some Brits to seek out value in their purchases, as the festive season approaches we expect spending to gradually gather pace as shoppers start buying gifts and preparing for gatherings with loved ones.”

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