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Early Christmas shopping boosts UK retail sales in September

U.K. retail sales in September rebounded as consumers engaged in early Christmas shopping, according to an Oct. 6. report from BDO High Street Sales Tracker.

The report showed that like-for-like sales in the four weeks to Sept. 24 jumped 2.9% from the same period in 2016. But that growth is coming off a low base from a year ago, BDO cautioned.

"At face value the result was the best September seen since 2012 and the best month for sales in over three years," according to the report by the accounting firm BDO, which compiles monthly data. However, it added that retail sales shrank 2.8% in September 2016, so the latest figures were measured from a weak base and "growth remains fairly slow."

The biggest like-for-like gain in September was a 3.6% increase in year-over-year spending on lifestyle products, which include general household goods, gifts, health and beauty and leisure. "New autumn ranges, back to school spending and the first flush of Christmas shopping appeared to have a positive impact on sales," the report said.

Nonstore sales, which comprise online, mail order and other nonstore channels, in September jumped 30.4% year over year, the best monthly performance since January 2015. "With progressively larger growth seen in each week of September, there was an indication that early Christmas shopping may have pushed sales northwards towards the end of the month," BDO added.

The increase in retail sales comes at a time when inflation is pushing up prices. The U.K. consumer price index rose 2.9% year over year in August.