Health and beauty spending boosts August shop sales

Woman shopping for beauty products at a store
Woman shopping for beauty products at a store

Retail sales rose in August as customers "splurged on self-care", new figures suggest.

Sales of non-food items had their best month since February, helped by higher spending on health and beauty, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG.

However, clothing and footwear saw weaker growth.

One reason for that was families leaving it to the last minute to buy school uniforms, the BRC said.

Taken as a whole, the value of retail sales increased by 4.1% in August, compared to a year earlier.

"The sales figures reflected the improvement in consumer confidence in August, and retailers hope this general upwards trend will carry on," Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said.

However, as prices were still rising at annual rate of at 6.8% in July, the BRC said the rise in the value of goods sold, actually masked a likely drop in the volume of goods sold.

Consumers are buying fewer items, but thanks to inflation they are spending more.

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, said the bounce back would be "a relief" for many retailers.

"Health, beauty and food and drink were the strongest performing categories both on the high street and online, as consumers made the most of brief spells of sunshine to enjoy the summer holidays," he said.

Inflation - the rate at which prices are rising - has fallen from its recent highs.

But Mr Martin said that despite this, shoppers continue to "seek out good deals" to stretch their money further.

"With shoppers becoming more calculated and aware of what they are getting for their money than we have seen for a long time, retailers will have to fight harder for every sale," he said.

Ms Dickinson said easing inflation would "certainly be welcomed by consumers".

But she warned that high interest rates and high winter energy bills were likely to put pressure on many households to spend cautiously in the months ahead.

"Retailers are combatting this through a clear focus on great value for consumers, expanding budget ranges, and finding ways to cut costs where possible," she added.


However, there was a gloomier outlook from Barclays as its data showed card spending grew 2.8% year-on-year in August - noticeably lower than July's growth figure of 4%.

The firm said rainy weather cast a cloud on the high street.

However, it said entertainment provided a welcome boost, prompted by a 101% surge in cinema spending, driven by summer blockbusters Barbie and Oppenheimer.

Esme Harwood, director at Barclays, said: "The rainy weather impacted high street and hospitality venues in August, but Brits were still keen to spend on memorable summer experiences.

"The huge box office success of Barbie and Oppenheimer meant entertainment enjoyed another strong month, while holidays abroad boosted international travel and pharmacy, health & beauty stores," she said.

Barclays also said that consumers were noticing that certain food and drink products have had premium ingredients reduced or downgraded, known as "skimpflation".