January retail sales ease as rising prices discourage shoppers

UK retail sales unexpectedly eased at the start of the year

UK retail sales unexpectedly eased at the start of the year, with rising prices putting off shoppers, new official figures show.

The Office for National Statistics said retail sales grew by just 0.1 per cent in January, the lowest growth since April, with economists expecting a figure of 0.5 per cent.

Rhian Murphy, senior statistician at ONS, said: "Retail sales growth was broadly flat at the beginning of the new year, with the longer-term picture showing a continued slowdown in the sector.

"This can partly be attributed to a background of generally rising prices."

"Growth in the quantity of sporting equipment, games and toys being bought was offset by falling food sales when compared with the same month a year earlier."

PwC's consumer markets leader, Lisa Hooker said the figures were not a surprise.

“When we polled consumers at the end of 2017, more people expected to be worse off this year than better off. UK consumers have been increasingly pessimistic every December since 2015, reflecting the ongoing squeeze on real earnings. While inflation has eased in the grocery sector compared to last year, we're starting to see higher prices affect consumer spending behaviour, with supermarket sales volumes declining year on year after the bumper Christmas period."

“Given January is traditionally the time of year consumers think about new furniture and doing up their homes, this has affected the performance of household goods retailers. On top of this, many shoppers spent money on themselves over the Black Friday period in November, cannibalising the traditional January sales," she added.

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