Autumn downturn a risk, says LRC

The London Retail Consortium (LRC) has warned that sales in central London are at risk from a downturn this autumn, because tourism kept sales buoyant in August.

Figures released by the LRC for August revealed consumers are making fewer trips to London’s shops, but spending more when they are there.

Like-for-like sales in the capital in August were up 9.8 per cent against a year ago, compared with a 22 per cent year-on-year increase in August 2006, when sales were bouncing back following the July 2005 bombings.

Middle Eastern shoppers led the spending in London, followed by Russians, other Eastern Europeans and Western Europeans. US visitors’ spending power was restricted by the weak US dollar.

Footfall dropped 3.9 per cent against August last year, when shopper levels were up 27 per cent following the bombings.

LRC director Kevin Hawkins said: “Another excellent result, driven primarily by the summer’s boom in tourism and some price-led offers in major London stores. The acid test will come in the late autumn when tourism declines and we are back to our home base.”

Clothing and footwear sales in August accelerated in London after tailing off in July, with heavy discounting needed to clear stock. Transition ranges performed well. Designerwear and accessories were popular with overseas visitors. Food and drink sales benefited from the sunnier weekends in August and homewares and furniture slowed after July’s clearance period.