UK retail sales bounced back last month, with sales volumes up 1.3% in April compared with the previous month and 4.3% higher than the same month last year, according to data released by the Office For National Statistics (ONS).
Retail sales were robust despite cold weather affecting spring clothing sales. The 1.3% increase was much higher than what Reuters says economists had forecast of 0.5 percent growth.
“Clothing stores remain the main drag on growth in the retail sector, with sales hampered by unseasonal weather. However… sales increased in April compared with March as lower prices boosted sales,” said ONS statistician Melanie Richard.
The ONS also revised March’s figures, showing retail sales fell by only 0.5%, a less significant drop than its previous estimate of a 1.3% decline.
Average store prices lower compared to last year
The data also revealed that store prices were 2.8% lower in April compared to the same month in 2015, with food store prices down 2.3% amid the increasingly fierce supermarket price war.
UK economy on-track to continue expanding
Vicky Redwood, chief economist at Capital Economics, told the BBC that the upcoming referendum on the UK’s EU membership does not appear to have had a negative impact on consumer confidence.
“Indeed, consumer spending should prevent the economy from slowing too much this quarter, even if referendum uncertainty has a bigger impact on business confidence and investment,” she said.
David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), commented on the results:
“After the disappointing decline in March, the strong retail sales recovery in April supports our view that in spite of major headwinds the UK economy continues to grow, albeit at a slowing pace.
“However, the contrast between buoyant retail sales and the problems facing other sectors such as manufacturing highlights the unbalanced nature of Britain’s recovery.”
The BCC called for “a more balanced economic structure with a stronger focus on exports, investment and manufacturing”.