United Kingdom retail sales drop as inflation rises
21 Avril, 2017, 19:43 | Author: Marc Bacque
Only the textiles, clothing and footwear sectors were immune, with the amount spent on all three up 2.5% on the preceding quarter, while online sales jumped by 19.5% in the 12 months to March and increased by 0.5% on February.
Meanwhile the fall in sterling since the European Union referendum has raised inflation to a 2.3 per cent annual rate in the United Kingdom, as imports become more expensive.
Kate Davies, a ONS statistician, said that the sales weakness "seemed to be a effect of price increases across a whole range of sectors". That includes the cost of petrol, which rose by 16.4%, year-on-year.
Retail sales had previously surprised economists by increasing by 1.7 per cent month-on-month in February.
Retail sale volumes slumped in March, seeming to confirm doubts about the robustness of the consumer-led economy in the wake of last Summer's Brexit vote.
The ONS's deflator, its measure of how much prices are rising, showed average retail prices 3.3% ahead of a year ago, the biggest such rise since March 2012.
The ONS said there was no evidence to suggest the timing of the Easter holidays distorted retail sales figures for March, though some analysts said they thought it might have been a drag - suggesting scope for an April rebound. Inflation has caught up with pay growth, so real incomes of workers are no longer rising.
GETTYThe decline is the first since 2013 and the steepest since 2010
"March's drop in United Kingdom retail sales suggests that the consumer spending slowdown is gathering pace and adds to other evidence indicating that the economic recovery has slowed since the end of past year", she added in a note to clients.
The decline will fuel further speculation that the rising inflation is begin to bite as Britons are reining in their spending. "Employment growth has also slowed sharply over the past six months, even though unemployment remains historically low".
Scotiabank's Alan Clarke said: "Slower wage inflation, coupled with slower consumer spending growth are two of the three swing factors that the MPC minutes told us would have an influence on monetary policy. For example, the Bank of England's agents' score of consumer services turnover has held steady at a fairly high level", she said.
The ONS found that shoppers bought fewer goods "across all retail sectors except textile, clothing and footwear stores where sales volume increased by 1.9%". It said the largest decreases were among stores selling household goods and fuel - at 3.3% and 3.1% respectively. These were offset to some extent by internet sales, it added.
GDP growth picked up to 0.7 per cent in the final quarter of 2016, but analysts are now expecting a slowdown in the first quarter of 2017 to between 0.4 and 0.5 per cent.
Clothing and footwear sales slid 0.9% and food sales dropped 0.5%.
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