UK retail sales make sharp December drop but fourth quarter still strong

Retail sales in the UK fell much more than initially predicted in December, data has shown.

A report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that retail sales dropped 1.9% in December from the previous month, far more than the 0.1% decrease experts predicted.

Even though this was the biggest drop since April 2012 retailers enjoyed strong spending in the fourth quarter as a whole.

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Year-on-year, last month’s retail sales increased 4.3% and the weak December figures contrast with many trading reports from lingerie retailers who mostly reported a strong Christmas season.

ONS senior statistician, Kate Davies, said: “Retailers saw a strong end to 2016 with sales in the final quarter up 5.6% on the same period last year, although the amount bought fell between November and December once the effects of Christmas are removed.”

A Reuters poll of economists published earlier this week suggested Britain’s economy is likely to grow around 1.2 percent this year – around half the rate of 2016 – although a recession is not on the cards.

In fact, retailers shouldn’t assume a bad January from December figures, according to Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking managing director Keith Richardson.

Smaller retailers continue to post strong numbers and online in December retailers enjoyed sizable growth. Shoppers spent about £1 billion a week, 21% higher than the year before.

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