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Olympics Dents Retail Sales

British Retail Consortium says August was worst month for sales growth.

LONDON—It’s official: The Olympics showered very little gold on British retailers.

The British Retail Consortium said like-for-like retail sales growth in the month of August was down by 0.4 percent compared with one year ago, despite high hopes that the Olympic Games would draw tourists eager to spend. Overall sales were up 1.6 percent, against a 1.5 percent rise in August 2011.

The BRC, the country’s largest retail trade organization, said that with the exception of April — which was impacted by the Easter weekend — sales growth in August was the lowest monthly gain since November 2011, and was characterized by particularly weak non-food sales as the “feel good factor” from the Olympics failed to inspire spending.

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The organization added that there was a “mild boost” to food sales in the form of party fare, but the net effect of the Olympics was minimal, as lower footfall in London was offset by a better performance in the rest of the country.

The BRC also said the Olympics failed to ignite business online, which saw growth of just 4.8 percent in August — the lowest since it started collecting data on the sector in October 2008.

“There’s no evidence here of any Olympic boost to retail sales overall,” said Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium.

“It’s clear people were absorbed by the magnificent Olympics and had little interest in shopping, especially for major items,” he added. “Some retailers told us online activity was particularly thin in the evenings. If people weren’t watching television, they were more likely to be following the sport on PCs and mobile devices than shopping.”