Retail sales hit 7-year low despite February boost

UK's retail sector defies doom and gloom as sales increase sharply in February

Kate Davies, the ONS senior statistician, said: "February's retail sales figures show fairly strong growth, though the underlying three-month picture shows falling sales as February's figures follow two consecutive months of decline in December and January".

This mirrors the rise of inflation, which rose above the Bank of England's two per cent target to hit 2.3 per cent in February.

Data from the ONS show February sales increased by 3.7% year-on-year (expected 2.6%) and 1.4% compared with January 2017 (expected 0.4%) with monthly growth seen across all stores.

Online sales surged in particular, jumping 20.7pc year-on-year, and 3.3pc on the month. Across the three months to February, sales volumes were down by 1.4% after a 0.5% drop in the three months to January.

The 18.7 per cent year-on-year rise in fuel prices, along with the steepest rate on inflation for three-and-a-half years following the fall in the pound, are attributable to the long-term decline in retail sales.

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It looks highly likely that retail sales volumes will contract over the first quarter - and very possibly markedly, IHS Markit economist Howard Archer said.

Sales rose across the board, with household goods increasing 3.7% and clothing growing 1%.

The latest retail sales figures will provide some reassurance that higher inflation has not brought growth in consumer spending to a complete halt, Paul Hollingsworth, a United Kingdom economist at Capital Economics, said.

United Kingdom retail sales grew strongly in February, beating City of London analysts expectations and sending the pound sharply up.

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, said: "Despite the strong month-on-month pick up, over the three months to February, retailers witnessed the biggest slide in quantity sold since 2010".

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