High Street sales pick-up

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Shops saw a gradual pick-up in sales last month, according to an influential survey published today.

Shops saw a gradual pick-up in sales last month, according to an influential survey published today.

The British Retail Consortium said sales were 1.7% higher than the previous October on a like-for-like basis stripping out new store space.

Total sales growth including new retail footage was up 4.7% on the year.

However, the BRC stressed that mid-season sales and promotional discounts had been widespread as retailers tried to tempt wary shoppers back down the aisles.

It added the figures were comparing with a poor month in 1998, where October was the low point in the year.

Despite the improved picture, the BRC said the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee need not have raised interest rates last week.

Andrew Higginson, chairman of the organisation's economic affairs committee, said: "Intense competition, which has been reflected in the recent results of leading retailers, is continuing to push prices down and keep the value of sales growth subdued.

"There remains no prospect of price inflation from the high street and the recent hike in interest rates was unnecessary."

The Bank's decision raised concerns about the sales outlook for the crucial Christmas period, the BRC said.

Growth in food sales was lower than last year.

In other areas, clothing sales remained tough but there was strong growth in furniture, DIY and home accessories, suggesting the housing boom was feeding through to the high street.

Taking a longer term view, the three month moving average remained subdued at 1.2% on a like-for-like basis, up on the 0.9% level in September.

The October BRC monitor covers the four weeks to October 30 and is compiled by Deloitte Consulting.

It is based on responses from retailers accounting for about half of Britain's total retail sales.

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