Retail sales slow as consumers tighten their belts

29 March 2005
The sight of bulging shopping bags in a busy shopping centre is set to become less common as a number of retailers complain of waning customer demand.

The retailers' reports combine with economic analysis to paint a picture of consumers putting their feet on the brakes after several years of accelerated spending.

Clothes chain Next, electrical goods retailer Kesa Electricals, jack of all trades Woolworths and floor covering seller Topps Tiles all complained last week of a drop in sales, according to Reuters reports.

Topps Tiles said it was going through "very tough trading", and Woolworths chief executive Trevor Bish-Jones said "customer spending has tightened since the end of January."

Next was less pessimistic however, saying it had anticipated the slowdown; chief executive Simon Wolfson told Reuters that demand had eased rather than plummeted.

This outlook was echoed by Rensburg fund manager Colin Morton, who agreed spending had slowed, but not dangerously so.

"We've had a phenomenal run - around ten years of spending growth," Mr Morton stated.

"But we're seeing the consumer take his foot off the accelerator a little now."
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