UK economy

British retail sales rebound in January

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 February, 2014, 2:16pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 February, 2014, 2:16pm

British retail sales rebounded last month after a weak December to record their strongest annual growth since April 2011, helped in part by a recovery in the country’s property market, a monthly industry survey showed on Tuesday.

The British Retail Consortium, a trade body, said the total amount spent in stores last month was 5.4 per cent higher than a year earlier, a sharp improvement on the meagre 1.8 per cent growth recorded for December.

The figures point to more of the strong consumer demand that propelled British economic growth last year, despite the fact that consumer price inflation is rising faster than wages.

“With a record number of people now in work and the continued recovery in the housing market, we have seen very strong performances in furniture and other non-food items,” BRC director general Helen Dickinson said.

Weather also played a role, the BRC said. The lack of snow this year – unlike in January last year – encouraged more people to go to the shops, benefiting all sectors other than groceries, which had their weakest three months since 2008.

Sales on a like-for-like basis, a measure that strips out changes in floor space and is favoured by equity analysts, rose by 3.9 per cent on the year, up from 0.4 per cent in December and outstripping economists’ forecasts of 0.8 per cent growth.

Sales growth on both a total and a like-for-like basis was the highest since April 2011, when the figures were boosted by the timing of Easter. Ignoring this factor, total sales growth was the highest since March 2010, the BRC said.

However, the strong growth marked a catch-up in sales after a weak December, not a big improvement in the underlying trend, and discounting continued to play a role for many retailers.