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UK Retail Sales Slump

Lower-than-expected UK retail sales, by-election sees Labour win, and a slowdown for Japanese inflation.

UK Retail Sales for September have come in considerably lower-than-expected, marking the third contraction this year as households continue to grapple with the rising cost of living. Retail sales dropped 0.9% between August and September, missing forecasts of a more marginal 0.2% decline. When excluding fuel, the slump in retail sales was more pronounced, hitting a 1% decline as department stores felt the squeeze. (Fuel sales in fact rose by 0.8% over the month). Indeed, non-food stores sales volumes sank just shy of 2% as household spending dried up in light of stretched disposable incomes. Here the ONS stated that “retailers

suggested that consumers were less inclined to spend in the current economic climate”. The ONS also cited how retailers had maintained that “unseasonably warm weather” reduced sales of autumn-wear fashion as clothing sales fell 1.6%.

Retail sales also slumped 1% on an annualised basis against forecasts that the figure would stall. Though, while this annualised figure similarly missed forecasts, it marked the smallest fall since retail sales started contracting in April 2022. When looking at the figures on a quarterly basis, retail sales volumes contracted 0.8 from the previous three months.

Retail Sales Drop as Shoplifting Surges

This morning’s slump in retail sales comes as data from the ONS indicates that shoplifting offences have risen to a record high of 1,000 cases a day. This marked an increase of around 25% from the previous year with the Telegraph reporting that the proliferation of shoplifting is now adding six pence to the average shop. This comes as an estimated £1bn worth of products are shoplifted each year as the detection rate for shoplifters falling to 18%, a record low.

 

Labour Party Win By-elections Overturning Conservative Majorities

The Labour Party have overturned two conservative constituencies, having won the Mid Bedfordshire and Tamworth by-elections. In Nadine Dorries’ former seat of Mid Bedfordshire – where the Conservatives won majority of more than 24,000 in the 2019 General Election – the Labour Party’s Alistair Strathern held a 20.52% swing. The seat was previously considered as a Tory safe seat with the party holding it since 1931.

In the West Midland’s town of Tamworth – which was the Conservative Party’s 55th safest seat – the Labour Party recorded a 23.89% swing. This resulted in Labour’s Sarah Edwards winning the constituency by 1,316 votes, taking it away from the Conservatives who had held it since 1996.

By-election’s have proved costly to the Conservatives with the party losing seven seats in the last three years amid Labour maintaining a double-digit lead against the Conservatives for over a year. The By-elections also come ahead of the next General Election which according to the Fixed Term Parliament Act is to be held no later than 25 January 2025. Earlier this year, there was some speculation that Downing Street may be planning an early election in the Autumn of 2024 as the party tries to reduce its gap in the polls.

Japanese Inflation Eases

This morning has seen Japanese headline inflation ease to 3% for the month of September marking a 20bps slowdown from August’s print. This also marked the lowest inflation print since September 2022 as energy prices slumped and inflation eased for clothes and household furniture. Elsewhere however, food price inflation rise 40bps from 8.6% to 9% marking the highest level since 1976, indicating that Bank of Japan continue to face headwinds in getting back to their 2% target level.

The slowdown in inflation comes ahead of the Bank of Japan’s interest rate decision on 31 October. The Bank of Japan continue to maintain ultra-loose monetary policy having maintained their benchmark short-term interest rate at -0.1%. The central bank also left their yield curve controls on government bonds unchanged from its current 0.5% barrier either side of its target rate of 0%.

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