talking trade WILL JONESHousewares Sector Director of the British Home Enhancement Trade Association (BHETA)

Retail revival is a bigger issue than sales figures suggest


verall, August was not a bad month according to the official statistics. But the feeling of uncertainty - given the

news from some of the traditionally big names in retail - is dangerously close to overwhelming. Latest retail sales figures look ‘not too bad’ for our

sectors. In August, the quantity bought rose by 0.3% compared with the previous month, with increases across sectors such as non-food at 2.8% and household goods at 4.5%. This seems particularly encouraging given the extent to which the overall upturns in recent months have been attributable to sectors such as food and seasonal.

Unsurprisingly, spending online continued to

reach a new record proportion of all retailing at 18.2%. However, strong growth in department stores also reached a record proportion at 18.4%. Taking the wider picture into consideration, house price improvements are there (albeit sluggish), construction output is improving a little, and commodity prices are down a little. So again, figures are marginally positive. But now the reality check. It’s a sad consequence

of the pressures on today’s retail environment that when you look around the BHETA membership, there aren’t many supplier members who have not been impacted in some way by recent events at

Homebase and House of Fraser. Regardless of any short-term benefit that

immediate retail competitors may gain, for many companies in the market the most positive outcome for everyone is a successful rebirth for these erstwhile retail giants. There is considerable potential support from suppliers for just that outcome - if only for the overall positive impact that such a resurgence would create. Maybe it’s time that the powers that be looked

again at levelling the playing field in terms of business rates, rentals and taxation, to ensure all parties have a fair crack at revitalising the home enhancement market to the benefit of all.

Consumer Price Index August 2018 Rising prices for a range of recreational and cultural goods and services, transport services and clothing produced the largest upward contributions to the change in the rate between July and August 2018. Partially offsetting downward contributions came from furniture and household goods, and telecommunications; prices for these rose between July and August 2018 but by less than a year ago. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) 12-month rate was 2.7% in August 2018, up from 2.5% in July 2018.

Retail Sales August 2018 In August 2018, the quantity bought rose by 0.3% compared with the previous month, with increases across all sectors except food, clothing and petrol. The month-on-month growth rate in the quantity

bought in food stores at -0.6% and clothing stores at - 1.9% was offset by strong growth in other non-food stores at 2.8% and household goods stores at 4.5%. The last three months of summer (from June to

August) saw an increase in the quantity bought at 3.4%, with food and household goods stores doing well in the warm weather compared with the previous summer, while non-store retailing continued to show strong growth. Spending online continued to increase to reach a new

record proportion of all retailing at 18.2%. Strong growth in department stores also reaching a record proportion at 18.4%.

Mortgage Approvals August 2018 Sluggish house prices and the Bank of England rate rise contributed to an increased number of mortgage

approvals in August, according to the latest Mortgage Monitor from chartered surveyor e.surv, which showed approvals were up by 2.7% in August compared with July. Although this is 0.7% lower than August last year, the 66,543 mortgages approved in August exceeded expectations because unseasonably hot weather generally causes a slowdown in the market. But the favourable housing market, with prices not

rising as fast as previously, was likely to have played a role tempting in more buyers too.

House Price Index July 2018 Average house prices in the UK have increased by 3.1% in the year to July 2018 (down slightly from 3.2% in June 2018). This is the lowest UK annual rate since August 2013 when it was 3.0%. The annual growth rate has slowed since mid-2016 and has remained under 5%, with the exception of October 2017, throughout 2017 and into 2018. This slowdown in UK house price growth over the past

two years is driven mainly by a slowdown in the south and east of England. The lowest annual growth was in London, where prices decreased by 0.7% over the year, down from an increase of 0.3% in the year to June 2018.

Labour Market May - July 2018 Estimates from the Labour Force Survey show that, between February to April 2018 and May to July 2018, the number of people in work was little changed, the number of unemployed people decreased but the number of people aged from 16 to 64 years not working and not seeking or available to work (economically inactive) increased. There were 32.40 million people in work, little changed

compared with February to April 2018 but 261,000 more than for a year earlier.

Construction Output July 2018 Construction output continued to recover following a relatively weak start to the year, increasing by 3.3% in the three months to July. The three-month on three-month growth in July was

driven by growth in both repair and maintenance, and all new work, which increased by 5.3% and 2.3% respectively. Construction output also grew in the month-on-month series, increasing by 0.5% in July, driven predominantly by a 4% increase in new private housing work.

Commodity Prices August 2018 Commodity prices mostly declined in August, with energy and non-energy commodities falling by 1.7%. Agriculture prices were also weak (down 1.8%), led by a 5.2% drop in beverages. Grains, however, bucked the trend, by rising 4.3%. Precious and base metals fell around 3%.

Foreign Exchange Analysis Reuters - September 25 2018 vigorous” inflation in the previous session, while the dollar paused before the US Federal Reserve’s policy meeting.

1 GBP = 1.11 EUR 1 GBP = 1.31 USD

Source: BHETA Economic Snapshot – September 2018

October/November 2018 | 47

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