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UK Retail Sales Record Best October in 7 Years

British retail sales values rose last month at their fastest annual pace since April to notch up their best showing for a month of October in seven years, a survey showed on Tuesday.

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The British Retail Consortium said the value of like-for-like sales rose 3.8 percent in October compared with a year ago. That was the biggest rise since April, when sales were bolstered by Easter, and compared with a rise of 2.8 percent in September.

The value of total sales -- which includes new floorspace -- was 5.9 percent higher than a year ago, also the biggest rise since April.

On both measures, the rise was the strongest for a month of October since 2002. However, the BRC noted that the figures had been flattered by comparison with a particularly poor month last year, following the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers.

"These are encouraging results," said BRC Director General Stephen Robertson. "They are, however, compared to dreadful figures last year."

For the second month running, the non-food sector outperformed the food sector, with sales of clothing, footwear and furniture performing particularly well.

Growth in non-food store sales showed a year-on-year gain of 18 percent, up from 11.9 percent in September and the strongest increase since July.

"As we approach Christmas, optimism is certainly up," said Helen Dickenson, head of retail at KPMG.

"However, the longer-term outlook remains considerably more challenging given the economic backdrop, levels of unemployment, uncertainty regarding the impending VAT rise and the impact of future fiscal policy following next year's election."