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UK retail sales stagnate in March



UK retail sales were flat in March, undershooting expectations, according to figures released on Friday by the Office for National Statistics.

Retail sales were unchanged on the month following a revised 0.1% jump in February and versus expectations for a 0.3% increase.

Automotive fuel and non-food stores sales volumes rose 3.2% and 0.5%, respectively. This was offset by falls in food stores and non-store retailers of 0.7% and 1.5%.

On the year, retail sales rose 0.8% in March, coming in below expectations for a 1% increase. That left sales 1.2% below their pre-pandemic level in February 2020.

In the three months to March, sales volumes jumped 1.9% compared with the previous quarter.

ONS senior statistician Heather Bovill said: “Retail sales registered no growth in March. Hardware stores, furniture shops, petrol stations and clothing stores all reported a rise in sales. However, these gains were offset by falling food sales and in department stores where retailers say higher prices hit trading

“Looking at the longer-term picture, across the latest three months retail sales increased after a poor Christmas.”

Alex Kerr, assistant economist at Capital Economics, said: “Despite the softer-than-expected data, retail sales still added almost 0.1 percentage points to real GDP growth in Q1.

“Moreover, the prospect of interest rate cuts and the boost to real household incomes, from falling inflation and the 2p cut to national insurance in April, suggest the recovery in consumer spending will continue throughout this year. However, today’s release may mean that the Bank of England is less worried about the possibility of a US-style resurgence in GDP growth and stalling in disinflation.”

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