Thursday 18 January 2018

British retail sales surge by 5.3pc

Retail sales
Retail sales
File photo dated 6/12/11 of a shopper carrying shopping bags as retail sales raced ahead of expectations over the crucial Christmas period as they leapt 2.6% during December, equalling an all-time record. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday January 17, 2014. Experts had pencilled in a rise of just 0.2% over the month, a make-or-break period for many high street businesses. The figures from the Office for National Statistics come on the back of buoyant trading updates from the likes of Argos, Halfords, Primark and Next, though Marks & Spencer and Debenhams struggled. See PA story ECONOMY Retail. Photo credit should read: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

British retailers had the fastest annual sales growth in more than nine years last month, confounding gloomy reports from many bigger chains and offsetting some signs of weakness in other areas of the economy.

Sterling jumped and government bond prices tumbled after the data, which was much stronger than expected. It revived speculation about when the Bank of England might raise interest rates.

Helped by a strong performance by smaller stores, British retail sales surged by 2.6pc in December to show an annual rise in volumes of 5.3pc -- the fastest growth since October 2004 -- Office of National Statistics (ONS) data showed.

This far outstripped economists' forecasts before the data for monthly growth of 0.4pc -- similar to November's rate -- and for sales to be 2.6pc higher on the year.

The upbeat figures increase the chance that there was strong overall economic growth in the past three months of 2013; though weak sales in October and November mean that for the quarter as a whole, sales volumes are up just 0.4pc.

Alan Clarke, an economist with Scotiabank in London, said yesterday's data would not push gross domestic product growth above 1pc in the fourth quarter, but would help offset the hit from weak construction data last week.

The ONS numbers contrasted with figures from the British Retail Consortium, which covered mostly bigger stores and suggested shoppers spent just 1.8pc more in December than a year earlier, slowing from November.

Irish Independent

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