Retailers in London surge ahead of regional rivals

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The Independent Online

Retailers in central London delivered their strongest sales in June since the autumn of 2006, but lacklustre growth in the rest of the UK again reinforced the view of a two-tier sector.

Underlying sales in the capital's shops rocketed by 14.4 per cent last month, driven by earlier clearance sales, the hot weather and stronger confidence, according to the British Retail Consortium-KPMG monthly survey.

But outside of London retailers laboured to show growth, with sales rising by just 1.2 per cent on shops open more than one year, laying bare the challenging trading conditions for many retailers.

Stephen Robertson, the director general of the BRC, said: "These are impressive results – the strongest London sales growth since October 2006. The heat and the sports events meant fewer people were out shopping in central London, but they were spending more per visit." He added: "Customers in the capital are less pessimistic than in the rest of the UK, and significantly less so than this time last year. The weak pound is still attracting tourists. Clearance sales were another major factor."

Top-line sales of London's retailers are also benefiting from fewer prom-otions and gentler discounting. In a separate survey carried out on Friday, PricewaterhouseCoopers revealed that 60 per cent of shops in the capital are on-sale or on-promotion, compared with a peak of 80 per cent in London in mid-July last year. The discounts advertised are averaging 55 per cent, down from 70 per cent in 2009.

Christine Cross, the chief retail adviser to PwC, said: "We've seen less extensive discounting in the capital this summer – a fall of 20 per cent compared with this time last year – due to healthy footfall and less sale stock resulting from retailers' better merchandise planning."