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UK retail sales volumes have fallen to their lowest level since the depths of the Covid pandemic as wet weather and the cost of living crisis supressed shopping activity.

The Office of National Statistics found the retail volumes are estimated to have fallen by 0.3% in October 2023, following a fall of 1.1% in September 2023 (revised from a fall of 0.9%).

That meant sales volumes fell by 1.1% in the three months to October 2023 when compared with the previous three months.

When compared with their pre-coronavirus pandemic level in February 2020, total retail sales were 16.9% higher in value terms, but volumes were 3.1% lower.

Retail sales volumes in October 2023 were at their lowest level since February 2021 when there were widespread and extensive restrictions to non-essential retail in England, Scotland and Wales.

A major driver of the fall was automotive fuel sales, which saw volumes fall by 2% in October 2023. In the three months to October, sales volumes fell by 0.7% when compared with the previous three months, which may be affected by increasing fuel prices.

Food stores sales volumes fell by 0.3% in October 2023, from being unchanged in September 2023.

The ONS said supermarkets reported an increase in sales volumes of 0.2% over the month while both specialist food stores (such as butchers and bakers), and alcohol and tobacco stores reported falls of 4.2% and 10.4%, respectively.

Feedback from these retailers suggested that consumers were buying cheaper products and prioritising important items.

Non-food stores sales volumes fell by 0.2% in October 2023, following a 2.1% fall in September 2023, with retailers suggested that cost of living, reduced footfall and the wet weather in the second half of the month contributed to the fall.

Non-store retailing (predominantly online retailers) sales volumes rose by 0.8% in October 2023 following a fall of 2.4% in September 2023.

Morning update

Real Good Food has announced it has sold Rainbow Dust Colours and is exploring options for JF Renshaw.

It has sold the business and certain assets of Rainbow Dust Colours to European Fermentation Products Ltd for a total cash consideration of £800k.

The Disposal provides JF Renshaw cash to help fund its working capital during the busy period in the run up to Christmas and to leverage its recently completed, and successful, programme of radical reform.

A condition of the sale is that £220,000 of the proceeds from the disposal will be used to pay down a proportion of the Hilco Private Capital secured loan facility.

The assets being sold include plant and machinery, inventory, domain names and trademarks.

The sale is expected to make a profit of circa £325k against book value for the company. In the year to 31 March 2023, RDC reported a break-even result at EBITDA level.

RGF announced on 31 October that performance has been constrained by supply issues and cash constraints.

It said these are continuing and sales in November and December are now expected to be lower than previously forecast.

This has led to the Board to conclude that it is in the best interests of all stakeholders to explore strategic options for its remaining business JF Renshaw.

The Board of JF Renshaw Limited has consequently resolved to appoint Interpath Advisory as its adviser to assist with the review of all strategic options, given a challenging environment for the company and the cash flow constraints, which may include the sale of the shares or the business and assets of JF Renshaw as well as sourcing necessary external funding.

Mike Holt, Executive Chair, said: “We have made substantial progress over the last year. The radical reform programme has delivered significant benefits and recent senior management changes have also made a real difference.

“The group, however, is struggling to meet demand through supply issues and cash constraints. The Board together with JF Renshaw is exploring all possible options and is working closely with Interpath Advisory to determine the best way forward.”

Pub group Marston’s has announced CEO Andrew Andrea will step down with immediate effect.

He has been at the group for more than 20 years and navigated the company through the pandemic and more recently the challenging macroeconomic conditions.

He will, however, be available to the business for a period to ensure a smooth handover of responsibilities.

Following an external process, Justin Platt has been appointed as CEO with effect from 10 January 2024. William Rucker, chair, will support the management transition in the short interim period with the executive team reporting directly into him.

Platt has over 30 years’ experience in hospitality and consumer-facing businesses, having spent the last 12 years at Merlin Entertainments, most recently as chief strategy officer and prior to that in a variety of operational leadership roles.

Marston’s said Platt has “a proven track record of delivering sustainable business growth through his clarity of strategic focus, a passion for enhancing customer experiences and a relentless focus on business results delivery”.

Current trading remains in line with management expectations.

William Rucker commented: “Andrew has worked for the Company for over 20 years and the Board thanks him for his valuable contribution, particularly in recent times, which has been one of the most challenging for our sector. He leaves with our very best wishes.

“Looking forward, I am very pleased to be able to announce the appointment of Justin Platt whose broad Consumer sector expertise, strategic acumen and prowess in customer experience at Merlin will be of great benefit to Marston’s at this stage in the Company’s journey.”

Andrew Andrea commented: “I am extremely proud to have navigated Marston’s out of the pandemic as a focussed pub business and put in place a first-class management team who are achieving market outperformance. This is the right time for me to step down and I am confident the business is in great shape with strong future potential. I wish William, Justin and the whole team continued success in the future.”

On the markets this morning, the FTSE 100 has rebounded 0.7% to 7,463.5pts.

Risers include THG, up 3.7% to 76.8p, Just Eat, up 2.5% to 1,299.1p and FeverTree, up 2% to 1,072.3p.

Fallers include Real Good Food, down 15.2% to 1.4p, McBride, down 1.4% to 50.9p and Bakkavor, down 0.8% to 88.5p.

Yesterday in the City

Hotel Chocolat shares jumped 161.9% to 364p yesterday after it announced its board had accepted a £534m bid from US food giant Mars.

Premier Foods closed up 0.9% at 132.2p after announcing strong top-line and bottom line growth in the first half and upgrading full year profits expectations.

However, the wider FTSE 100 fell back 1% to 7,411pts.

Fallers included Ocado, down 6.2% to 559.4p, WH Smith, down 4.9% to 1,287p, DS Smith, down 4.2% to 286.4p, FeverTree, down 3.8% to 1,051p, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, down 3.5% to €55.00, SSP Group, down 3.3% to 203.2p and THG, down 3.3% to 74p.

Risers include Naked Wines, up 10.1% at 34.5p, Virgin Wines, up 5.6% to 38p, McBride, up 2.4% to 51.6p, Bakkavor, up 1.8% to 89.2p and Nichols, up 1% to 1,020p.