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Retail news round-up: September sales boom

BDO says that despite reports of low footfall in September, like-for-like sales of lifestyle goods grew by 3.6%, suggesting shoppers made fewer trips but conversion rates were higher. Some department stores have already revealed that savvy shoppers are hunting for early Christmas presents, further boosting the lifestyle and gifting sector. The accountancy firm reports that the UK’s high streets enjoyed their best September for five years: overall, like-for-like sales increased by 2.9%, the best growth for any single month since April 2014. The British Retail Consortium and KPMG said that on a total basis sales increased by 2.3% in September compared with growth of 1.3% a year earlier.

Ocucon, in partnership with Google Cloud, is working on technology which aims to protect retailers from fraudulent personal injury claims. It says that faked slips, tips and falls in stores could cost British businesses up to £800 million a year.

 Royal Mail has claimed that a legally binding, potentially protracted mediation process means that a national postal strike by postal workers represented by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) is unlikely and there would be no walkouts around Black Friday at the end of November. CWU members have voted in favour of strike action.

While figures from the Office for National Statistics confirm the UK is no closer to resolving its productivity puzzle, with output per hour sinking by 0.1% in Q2, retail is bucking the trend. A technological revolution and a step-change in the way retailers engage and manage their workforce has meant retail has seen productivity growth rates persistently higher than the UK average, growing 1.1% in the second quarter and recording an 8.3% uplift in productivity over the past three years compared to just 1.2% for the UK as a whole.

Memo to retailers: old round pound coins cease to be legal tender from midnight on Sunday, October 15. However, leading banks and post offices will still exchange them. According to a poll by Virgin Money, one in three people have searched their home, bags and pockets for the coins before they go out of circulation.

The European Union has ordered Amazon to repay €250m (£222m) in back taxes to Luxembourg after the EU argued that the company had unfairly profited from special low tax conditions since 2003 in the country where its European headquarters are based.

Former Tory MP Paul Uppal has been named by the government as the first Small Business Commissioner with a remit to help small firms to resolve payment disputes with large companies.

According to The Times, the government has indicated that companies that wish to challenge their business rates bills are due to face stricter time limits, despite complaints that the appeals system is in disarray after a botched overhaul earlier in the year. The Department for Communities and Local Government has said that there are “clear benefits to introducing a cut-off point for appeals” as it looks to reduce what it sees as speculative challenges to bills that “waste public resources” and “cause uncertainty for local authorities”.

 Alan Monahan