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Comment on the Office of National Statistics (ONS) Retail Sales Figures for October 2008

"These figures have come in stronger than was widely expected. But they confirm what was evident from a stroll up any high street or around any retail park last month: the retail sector was very mixed in October. Sales were resilient in food and specialist retailers but were down in clothes and household goods retailers and weak in department stores.

"Retailers' actions in the past week indicate they are focussing all their efforts on the run up to Christmas, attempting to increase sales and footfall with wide scale pre-Christmas reductions. Battle lines have been drawn on the high street and we can expect aggressive marketing on value across all segments to boost spending and to increase sales volume. The retail sector usually faces a testing and nervous time trying to gauge the temperature of consumer demand in the run-up to Christmas. But it faces exceptional uncertainty this year.

"The interest rate cut earlier this month, and speculation of further cuts following the impending pre-budget report, may entice the now frugal shopping public to take advantage of the widespread discounting taking place. This can only be assisted by the lower cost of fuel which should encourage people to drive to the larger retail centres to stock up on Christmas gifts and bargains."