Economy

UK shop sales surging, official data suggests

UK retail sales jumped 0.7% in February compared to the traditionally busy January period, according to the latest government figures.

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UK retail sales jumped 0.7% in February compared to the traditionally busy January period, according to the latest government figures.

Economy

UK shop sales surging, official data suggests

UK retail sales jumped 0.7% in February compared to the traditionally busy January period, according to the latest government figures.

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UK retail sales jumped 0.7% in February compared to the traditionally busy January period, according to the latest government figures.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show consumers are in bullish mood, with sales shooting up 5.7% year-on-year.

Analysts say static inflation and increasing basic wages are fuelling people with confidence to spend. Earlier this week official data showed consumer prices froze last month for the first time on record.

But it was not all good news for businesses. Average shop prices fell again for the eighth consecutive month and have declined 3.6% compared with this time last year.

Furniture stores did particularly well over the month, although the ONS said all shop-types fared well.

Lower prices has led to a squeeze on profit margins, with some retail business owners saying they can’t carry on.

“This is the largest year-on-year fall since consistent records began in 1997,” said the ONS in a statement.

“Once again the largest contribution to the year-on-year fall came from petrol stations, which fell by 15.5%, the largest year-on-year fall in this store type on record.”

The data also showed the average weekly spend in the UK retail sector was £6.6 billion in February, compared to £6.5 billion during the same month last year.

The figures were better than analysts’ expectations for a 0.4% increase on the month. In January sales fell 0.3% it what was a disappointing January sales period.

“If you wanted a demonstration that low food and energy prices are good for consumer spending, then this is it,” said Alan Clarke, an economist at Scotiabank in London, told Bloomberg.

“People are clearly not deferring their spending plans amid deflation speculation -- they are spending the windfall. This is good news for growth.”

Barclays head of retail and wholesale Richard Lowe said: “February was another strong month, with the retail sector now seeing almost two years’ of consecutive year on year growth.

“Sales of seasonal ranges have started well and with Easter just around the corner the high street has every reason to have a spring in its step in the months ahead."

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UK shop sales surging, official data suggests

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