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British retail sales slide to 25-year low

An index of UK retail sales dropped in July to the lowest level in a quarter-century as record oil costs forced shoppers to curb spending, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said.

The survey of 82 retailers showed 25% sold more goods than a year earlier and 61% sold fewer, the nation’s biggest business lobby said yesterday. The net rounded balance of minus 36 percentage points is the lowest since the survey began in July 1983 and compares with minus 9 in June. Retail sales dropped the most since 1986 last month as record fuel prices, falling house prices and job losses prompted Britons to pare spending.

The Bank of England predicts that economic growth will be the weakest since the early 1990s and that inflation will accelerate to double its 2% target. “It is turning out to be a very grim summer for many retailers,” said Andy Clarke, retail director at Wal-Mart Inc’s Asda chain and chairman the panel overseeing the survey. “Pressure from higher fuel and food prices is prompting many people to rein in their spending.”

The index for durable household goods such as refrigerators, furniture and booksellers slumped to minus 100. Grocers and footwear stores were the only outlets to report a positive sales balance, the CBI said. (China Daily News)