UK retailers feel pain of recession, summer washout

Thu Jul 19, 2012 4:42am EDT
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By James Davey

LONDON (Reuters) - The devastating economic impact of Britain's sodden summer was laid bare on Thursday as major retailers Kingfisher (KGF.L: Quote), Halfords (HFD.L: Quote), JJB Sports JJB.L and Mothercare (MTC.L: Quote) all said the exceptional wet weather had hit demand, fraying investors' nerves.

Government data also showed that overall June retail sales were worse than expected.

The wettest April to June period since records began has exacerbated an already tough situation for retailers in an economy mired in recession and austerity, hitting sales of goods ranging from barbecues to bicycles to football shirts.

Britain fell back into recession at the start of the year and consumers are holding back on spending. Although inflation is easing and unemployment falling they are still being squeezed by meager wage increases and government austerity measures designed to cut record debt.

A constant stream of negative headlines about the impact of the euro zone debt crisis is also weighing on confidence.

Prime Minister David Cameron will have done little to lift the move when he said on a newspaper report that Britain's program of spending cuts could last until 2020.

"I can't see any time soon when ... the pressure will be off," he said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.

Thursday's raft of retail updates came as official retail sales data for June showed retail sales volumes fell by 0.7 percent, the sharpest fall since the first quarter of 2010.   Continued...