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Office of National Statistics

UK retail sales rally slightly in April

New figures from the Office of National Statistics have revealed that UK retail sales lifted slightly in April, reversing the decline that was witnessed in March.

As the High Street suffers store closures, troubled UK retail veterans and more, the news has provided a glimmer of hope for the sector. Key highlights of the ONS report include:

  • In April 2018, the quantity of goods bought in the retail industry remained relatively flat with a slight increase of 0.1% in the three-month on three-month movement.
  • When compared with March 2018, the quantity bought in April increased by 1.6% as all sectors, excluding department stores, recovered from the declines seen in March.
  • Department stores showed a different monthly picture to all other sectors as the only sector to report a fall in quantities bought, at negative 0.9% in April following strong online sales in March.
  • Petrol sales reported the largest recovery in April, with a growth of 4.7% compared with a decline of negative 6.9% in the previous month as road closures affected travel in March.
  • Removing the monthly volatility, the combined two months of March and April compared with the same periods a year earlier showed a general slowdown to growth at 1.3% for March and April 2018 when compared with 2.9% for March and April 2017.
  • Online sales as a proportion of all retailing continued to grow year-on-year at 17.3% in April 2018, in comparison with 16.1% in April 2017; with food and clothing stores achieving record online proportions.

Commenting on the figures, Rob Kent-Smith, Head of National Accounts at the ONS said: “Retail sales bounced back in April, as petrol and other sales recovered from the snowfall. But the underlying position remains subdued with the volume of goods sold over the last six months broadly unchanged.

“Increases were seen across all sectors in April, except department stores. Department stores declined following relatively strong sales last month, when their online sales were boosted during the adverse weather.

“Over the longer-term, retail sales growth has slowed considerably, with increases in food, household goods and internet retailers being largely offset by declines across all other types of retailing.”

Inflation remains flat, Retail Price Index rises in July

The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) have revealed that inflation remained flat in July, at 2.6%, with experts hoping that that it has now “peaked.”

Figures also show that the Consumer Price Index remains above the Bank of England’s 2% target, considerably better than analyst’s predictions of a 2.7% rise.

However, the Retail Prove Index rose by 3.4%, resulting in an ongoing squeeze on an average household spend.

ONS figures also found that food and clothing prices were the worst effected.

Commenting on the figures, Ben Brettel, senior economist, Hargreaves Lansdown said: “It now looks quite possible inflation has peaked, and will fall back further in coming months.

“The year-on-year increase in producers’ raw material costs fell to 6.5 per cent in July – undershooting forecasts for a seven per cent rise.

“This was down from 10 per cent in June, the biggest month-to-month slowdown in almost five years.

“Input prices are a leading indicator for consumer price inflation as higher input prices are often ultimately passed on to the consumer, and therefore a lower number here could bode well for softer consumer prices down the line.

“All this is good news for the consumer, as it helps alleviate the continuing squeeze on household finances, though pay is still shrinking in real terms for now.”

Shoes and clothing sales experience biggest fall since 1991…

According to official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), sales of clothing and shoes in the UK fell by 3.4 per cent in February, making it the sixth consecutive month to fall and the longest stretch of decline since October 1991.

With the drop in sector sales amounting to 0.4 per cent of the overall retail fall, retailers have said that the warmer weather this winter is the reason as to why many goods such as jumpers and jackets have been left unsold. Nonetheless, managing director at UFX.com, Dennis de Jong, has suggested that the EU referendum debate could have played a significant part. “Shoppers tend to be tight-fisted after the January sales but deeper concerns surrounding a possible Brexit might be making them think twice before spending.”

Read the full article here.