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ONS retail sales figures provide grounds for encouragement, though the nation’s shopkeepers remain cautious
Thursday 21 Feb 2019 Author: James Crux

UK retail sales bounced back by a greater degree than expected in January according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), bucking the trend of disappointing UK data and providing a welcome boost for the nation’s first quarter growth prospects.

Retail sales volumes spiked 1% month-on-month and rose 4.2% year-on-year. The latter metric represents the best annual growth rate since December 2016.

This provided some welcome relief following disappointing fourth quarter sales, constrained by a muted run-up to the festive season.

Significantly, the ONS reported bumper demand for discounts across clothing and food as shoppers hunted down bargains in the January sales ahead of Brexit.

There was a boon for supermarkets with the quantity of food bought in January up by 3.2%, returning to the strong growth witnessed last summer.

One twist in the tale was that online sales as a total of all retailing decreased to 18.8%, down from the 19.8% reported in December 2018.

Retailers will be cautious of consumers tightening their belts in the near term given tepid wage growth and the heightened uncertainties over Britain’s exit from the European Union.

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