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U.K. Retailers Posted Strongest Growth Since 2009 in September

Eileen Gbagbo
·1 min read

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. retail sales rose in September at their fastest annual pace since 2009 but tighter restrictions to control the surge in coronavirus could deliver a serious setback, an industry body warned.

The British Retail Consortium said the 5.6% jump from a year earlier was driven by renewed stockpiling, early Christmas shopping and the reopening of schools boosting demand for clothing. Like-for-like sales jumped by 6.1%.

But fears are mounting that Britain could face more stringent curbs during the crucial run-up to Christmas if the spike in virus cases is not brought under control. On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that bars and pubs will close in the worst-hit parts of England from Wednesday.

“The industry is beginning to recover,” said BRC Chief Executive Helen Dickinson. “However, forced store or warehouse closures during any future lockdowns could put paid to this progress.”

The BRC also cautioned the pace of growth last month was inflated by a poor September last year, when spending was hit by fears about a no-deal Brexit. That prospect is looming once again, with companies facing costs, tariffs and border disruptions on Jan. 1 unless Britain and the European Union can break the deadlock in talks over a new trade agreement.

A buoyant September was also reported by Barclaycard, which said spending rose 2% on the year -- the best performance since before the pandemic struck.

Consumers fearing a new lockdown stocked up on essentials, pubs thrived and there was a surge in spending on home improvements as millions of Britons continued to stay away from the office.

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