talking trade WILL JONES Chief Operating Officer of the British Home Enhancement Trade Association (BHETA)

Making the most of the Golden Quarter

orders since the middle of 2012, while retail appeared to hold steady through the late summer with moderate growth in the quantity of goods bought. I think these seeming contradictions in fortune are symptomatic of the prolonged tension across supply and retail. While this is frustrating, we do have to be so


careful that we don’t talk ourselves into a worse place than is the case - in particular, as we navigate our way through the so-called ‘Golden Quarter’ before Christmas. It is disquieting to see that pre-Christmas discounting has started much earlier than normal as early evidence of lower footfall compared with last year, combined with bad news on business rates for bricks-and-mortar retail, creates jitters among some of . In my opinion it’s not helpful for anyone when one such big name is quoted in the ‘Daily Mail’ as

et again, the official figures give us a mixed picture with UK manufacture feeling the pain of the steepest fall in

saying that it’s going to be the worst Christmas for retail since the collapse of Woolworths! For the fact of the matter is, that not everyone

is suffering; and of those that are, not everyone is taking the same pessimistic view. It’s also the case that not every sector and not every category within every sector is experiencing the problems that the media seem very keen to report upon. Fashion may well be having a relatively torrid time - but housewares is not. Let’s look at some other facts. Dunelm saw both like-for-like and total sales increase in what it described as a “particularly strong” first quarter of trading. For the 13 weeks to September 28, the homewares retailer reported that total like-for-like sales across its stores and ecommerce arm leapt 6.4% to £255.6 million, and total sales across Dunelm went up 5.8% to £262.6 million. Another big name is Debenhams which, while facing a very serious situation, has announced an additional £50 million of funding that will

enable it to trade ‘at full-tilt’ over the vital Christmas period, as well as to invest in marketing and new product initiatives. As is so often the case with official statistics,

the devil is in the detail. Yes, it’s true that on every day of the first half of 2019, there were sixteen store closures and only nine openings, but of the top ten categories for closures, housewares outlets and cookshops figured precisely nowhere. Yes, there are tough decisions to be made in an era of massive change. But the adapters and the innovators are surviving - and sometimes thriving. Our sector should not be beating itself up needlessly, whatever the pessimistic pundits say.

• For more information about BHETA, contact the member services team on 0121 237 1130 or visit

Consumer Price Index The Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) 12-month inflation rate was 1.7% in August 2019, down from 2.0% in July 2019. The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) 12- month rate was 1.7% in August 2019, down from 2.1% in July 2019.

Retail Sales In the 3 months to August 2019, moderate growth in the quantity bought continued at 0.6%, with growth in non-store retailing being the main contributor. Online sales, as a proportion of all retailing, fell to 19.7% in August 2019, from the 19.9% reported in July 2019.

Mortgage Approvals According to the Bank of England, net mortgage borrowing by households picked up in July, rising to £4.6 billion. The annual growth rate remained at 3.2%, close to the level seen since 2016. Mortgage approvals for house purchase increased in July to 67,300.

House Price Index

Average house prices in the UK increased by 0.7% in the year to July 2019, down from 1.4% in June 2019. This is the lowest annual rate since September 2012 when it was 0.4%. Over the past 3 years, there has been a general slowdown in UK house price growth, driven by a slowdown in the south and east of England.

Labour Market The UK employment rate was estimated at 76.1%; this is the joint-highest on record since comparable records began in 1971, and higher than a year earlier (75.5%). The unemployment rate was estimated at 3.8%; this is lower than a year earlier (4.0%) and unchanged on the quarter.

Construction Output Construction output decreased by 0.8% in the 3- month on 3-month all work series in July 2019; this was driven predominately by a fall in repair and maintenance of 2.2%, largely due to the decline in private housing repair and maintenance.

Commodity Prices Almost all commodity groups fell in August, with

energy prices tumbling 6.1% and non-energy commodities declining 3.9%. The sharpest declines were seen in grains (-7.3%), beverages (-6.4%), metals & minerals (-6.1%). Precious metals were an exception, rising 6.5%.

Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) The UK Manufacturing PMI fell to 47.4 in August 2019 from 48.0 in July. The latest reading pointed to the steepest month of contraction in the manufacturing sector since July 2012, as new orders fell the most in over 7 years, amid ongoing global trade tensions, slower world economic growth and Brexit uncertainty.

Foreign Exchange Analysis The £GBP was worth 1.24 dollars and 1.13 Euro in September up to the 23rd - both historically very low figures but around 2% higher than August.

1 GBP = 1.13 EUR 1 GDP = 1.24 USD

Source: BHETA Economic Snapshot – September 2019

October/November 2019 | 47

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