Retail battered and bruised

UK sales at lowest level for decade No end in sight to spending downturn warns Dixons boss
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by Samantha Loveday

The sales crisis on the High Street
appears to be deepening, with more
woe for retailers during April as sales
fell to their lowest level in ten years,
according to the British Retail
Consortium.

Like-for-like sales slipped by 4.7 per
cent against the same month in 2004,
mainly due to Easter falling a month
earlier this year.

However, BRC director general
Kevin Hawkins told BBC's Radio 4
Today, that the figure is worse than
anyone expected. Trade worsened in
most categories on the High Street,
especially in the case of occasional
and non-essential purchases. White
electrical goods and furniture also
slowed.

Indeed, Dixons Group experienced a
sales fall over the past six months,
with UK sales falling two per cent in
the 24 weeks ending April 30th. Likefor-
like sales also dipped by the same
amount. DSG has been forced to cut
the prices of electrical goods like
DVDs and flat screen TVs amongst
tough competition from the likes of
Asda, Tesco and Internet-based
retailers.

PC World and The Link were
the worst hit areas of the business,
falling eight and nine per cent
respectively over the 24-week period.
The core Dixons chain fared better,
with like-for-like UK sales up five per
cent over the same period.

The company is still expecting to
meet its full-year targets, but chief
executive John Clare warned that the
downturn is nowhere near over yet for
retail. "I can't see where any good
news will come from. The speed with
which this has hit the retail sector and
the fact that there is no end in sight
could all point to this being worse
than the downturn we experienced in
the Nineties. A lot depends on how
long it will last."

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