UK February retail sales rise more than expected

(iStock)
(iStock)

London - UK retail sales rose more than economists expected in February, boosted by a jump in spending in food. Sales of other goods fell.

The volume of goods sold in stores and online climbed 0.8% from January, double the increase forecast by economists, figures from the Office for National Statistics on Thursday show. The increase followed declines in the previous two months.

The sector may struggle to avoid losing sales over the first quarter after snow and freezing temperatures gripped the UK this month. Sales will fall unless March sees an increase of 0.6%.

In the three months through February, sales fell by 0.4%, the first decline in almost a year.

“The underlying three-month picture is one of falling sales, mainly due to strong declines across all sectors in December,” said ONS statistician Rhian Murphy.

British consumers are only now emerging from a cost of living squeeze that has taken its toll on retailers from Kingfisher’s B&Q home-improvement chain to suit maker Moss Bros Group.

Inflation is easing and the Bank of England is expected to keep interest rates unchanged today, though markets are increasingly betting on a rate increase in May to head off home-grown price pressures emerging in the labour market.

Sales excluding auto fuel increased by 0.6% in February. Food sales rose by 1.1% and there was also a boost from household goods and goods sold online. But non-food sales overall fell by 0.8%, with department stores and clothing shops both experiencing declines.

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