Confused by conflicting retail stats? This is the real state of play

Confused by stats

Retail sales are falling. Or are they rising? There is a range of contrasting figures on the health of the retail market, but which tell the true story? George MacDonald investigates.

Every passing week and month brings new tales of retail woe.

Most recently Karen MillenCoast and Jack Wills all went through insolvency processes – the first two will in future only trade online while the latter was bought by acquisition-hungry Sports Direct – and the latest BRC-KPMG retail sales data for July showed “consumer spending languishing”.

According to the BRC, it was the lowest July sales figure since records began in 1995.

It was not an atypical update – retailers have become used to “lowest since” statistics that have stimulated many headlines that portray a dying industry.

But reading the official ONS data for July paints a different picture of an industry that achieved value sales growth of 3.4% year on year or a 2.9% volume advance.

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