UK retail sales rose for the first time in three months in January and at a faster than expected pace, led by a strong demand for clothing and footwear and food.
The volume of retail sales including auto fuel rose 0.9 percent month-on-month, which was greater than the 0.7 percent gain economists had expected. In November and December, retail sales fell 0.8 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively. The latest increase was the biggest since March last year, when sales grew 1.1 percent. Excluding auto fuel, retail sales grew for the first time in six months, up 1.6 percent from the previous month, when it dropped 0.8 percent. Economists had forecast a 0.8 percent increase. The growth was the biggest since May 2018, when sales rose 2.2 percent.
Sales of food grew 1.7 percent, while fuel sales slumped 5.7 percent, thanks to an increase in fuel prices. Non-food sales increased 1.3 percent, largely led by a 3.9 percent increase in stores selling textiles, clothing and footwear, which was the biggest gain since May 2018. Year-on-year, retail sales including auto fuel grew 0.8 percent in January after a 0.9 percent increase in December. Economists had forecast a 0.6 percent increase. Without auto fuel, retail sales increased 1.2 percent annually following a 0.7 percent increase in the previous month. Economists were looking for a 0.5 percent gain. However, retail sales decreased 0.8 percent from the previous three months, but grew 0.8 percent from the same period a year ago. ONS data also showed that online sales as a proportion of all retailing was 19.0 percent in January versus 19.3 percent in December. Official figures suggest that consumer and business confidence improved after the general election and also due to some certainty regarding the UK’s exit from the European Union at the end of January. Meanwhile, consumer spending declined 1.6 percent year-on-year in January, which was quicker than the 1.1 percent drop seen in December, IHS Markit reported Wednesday, Visa’s UK Consumer Spending Index.
Month-on-month, expenditure decreased 0.5 percent, which was softer than the 1.9 percent reduction seen in December. The three-month-on-three-month measure was flat, to end a period of growth that began last October.