British retail sales unexpectedly rose in April as shoppers bought more clothes, drinks and tobacco, easing concerns over the pace of the UK economic recovery and the impact of growing inflation.

The quantity of goods bought in Great Britain rose 1.4 per cent between March and April, partially reversing declines in the previous two months, according to data published on Friday by the Office for National Statistics. Economists in a Reuters poll had expected a 0.2 per cent drop for the month.

Line chart of Volume, Feb 2020=100 showing Retail sales unexpectedly expanded in April

Earlier on Friday, separate data published by the research company GfK showed that UK consumer confidence fell to the lowest level since records began in 1974, as inflation jumped to a 40-year high of 9 per cent.

“April’s rise was driven by an increase in supermarket sales, led by alcohol and tobacco and sweet treats, with off-licences also reporting a boost, possibly due to people staying in more to save money,” said Heather Bovill, ONS deputy director for surveys and economic indicators.

“Clothing sales had a strong month, especially online, with some retailers suggesting consumers were purchasing clothes for summer holidays and weddings,” she added.

Sales volumes in food stores rose 2.8 per cent, mostly because of higher spending on alcohol and tobacco in supermarkets.

Non-store retailing sales volumes, which are predominantly sales from online-only retailers, rose by 3.7 per cent led by stronger clothing sales.

Sales of vehicle fuel rose by 1.4 per cent following a slide of 4.2 per cent in March when record increases in petrol prices hit demand.



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