British Retail Sales Drop As Cold Weather Dampens Clothing Demand
U.K. retail sales declined at a slower than expected pace in February after recording the fastest growth in more than two years, as poor weather delayed clothing purchases.
Retail sales volume dropped 0.4 percent month-on-month reversing January's 2.3 percent growth, the Office for National Statistics said Thursday. This was slower than the 0.7 percent decrease expected by economists.
Food store sales decreased 0.3 percent and non-food store sales edged down 0.1 percent in February.
Retailers suggested that sales of their spring and summer collections have been impacted by cold and wet weather. Clothing and footwear sales decreased 0.4 percent.
Sales excluding auto fuel slid 0.2 percent in contrast to a 2.3 percent rise a month ago and smaller than the 1 percent decline forecast by economists.
Paul Hollingsworth at Capital Economics said he doubts that February's dip in retail sales is the beginning of a more pronounced slowdown in the pace of the consumer recovery. While there are some headwinds to spending growth, the outlook remains fairly bright, he noted.
Including auto fuel, retail sales growth eased to 3.8 percent annually from 5.4 percent. Economists had forecast a 3.9 percent rise. The retail industry logged growth for the 34th consecutive month in February.
Likewise, sales excluding fuel grew at a slower pace of 4.1 percent after rising 5.1 percent in January. Sales were expected to increase 3.5 percent.
During three months to February, sales volume showed growth for the 27th consecutive month, increasing 0.8 percent.
With February's resilience, retail sales are on course to see healthy overall growth in the first quarter which would be helpful to GDP growth prospects, IHS Global Insight Economist Howard Archer, said.
Another survey from the Confederation of British Industry showed that British retailers expect retail sales volume to accelerate next month.
A balance of 7 percent said the sales volume increased in March, below the expected level of 10 percent, and 17 percent expects volume to improve in April.
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