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Financial News: UK Retail Sales Fall At Fastest Pace Since

UK Retail Sales Fall At Fastest Pace Since Early 2021

01/19/2024 - 04:47:00 (RTTNews)

(RTTNews) - UK retail sales declined the most since early 2021 as consumers brought forward Christmas sales into November, and the high cost of living and interest rate hikes damped household spending.

Retail sales declined 3.2 percent month-on-month in December, reversing the 1.4 percent increase in November, figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed Friday.

The figure was bigger than the 0.5 percent expected drop and also marked the largest decline since January 2021 when the coronavirus restrictions affected sales.

Excluding auto fuel, the retail sales volume decreased 3.3 percent, in contrast to the 1.5 percent expansion a month ago. Sales were expected to fall moderately by 0.6 percent.

The data suggests that the Black Friday boost to retail sales proved short-lived, Capital Economics economist Alex Kerr said.

The economist said interest rate cuts from June and the further boost to real household incomes from falling inflation will support a recovery in real consumer spending in the second half of this year.

With the consumer confidence having recovered, the real wage growth positive and the mortgage squeeze being dampened by the fall in market rates, December's fall in retail sales is likely to be reversed in the first quarter, ING economist James Smith said.

Non-food store sales volumes fell 3.9 percent after a 2.7 percent increase in November, when earlier Black Friday sales and wider discounting increased sales, the ONS said.

At the same time, food store sales volumes decreased 3.1 percent, in contrast to the 1.1 percent rise in November.

Similary, automotive fuel sales volumes decreased 1.9 percent after a 0.8 percent rise.

On a yearly basis, overall retail sales unexpectedly declined 2.4 percent after a 0.2 percent gain. Economists had forecast a 1.1 percent increase.

Likewise, sales excluding auto fuel dropped 2.1 percent following a 0.5 percent gain. Sales were forecast to climb 1.3 percent.

Sales volumes fell 2.8 percent in 2023 to their lowest level since 2018, the ONS said.

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