UK Consumers Return To Shopping After Snowy Start To 2018, Sales Beat Forecast
British retail sales jumped by the most in one-and-a-half years in April, official figures showed on Thursday as consumers returned to the shops after a snowy start to 2018 that weighed on the overall economy.
Retail sales volumes rose by 1.6 percent from March, the Office for National Statistics said, well above the median forecast for a monthly 0.7 percent increase in a Reuters poll of economists.
The rise followed a sharp fall of 1.1 percent in March when Britain was in the grip of unusually cold winter weather.
However, the ONS said the big picture remained one of subdued spending with sales broadly unchanged over the past six months.
In the three months to April, sales edged up by 0.1 percent compared with a fall of 0.4 percent in the three months to March when they suffered the biggest decline since the first quarter of 2017. British households were hit last year by a combination of rising inflation and weak wage growth.
Recent figures have shown a cooling of price growth and a pickup in wages. But many retailers are struggling as consumers remain wary about spending and online shopping upends the industry.
Marks & Spencer, House of Fraser and New Look among other chains have said they plan to close shops. But clothing retailer Next said earlier this month that warmer weather in April boosted its sales.
The Bank of England is watching for signs that Britain's economy has recovered from the early 2018 slowdown before it presses ahead with only the second interest rate hike since before the financial crisis.
Figures published on Wednesday by the Confederation of British Industry showed retail sales picked up moderately in May.
The gauge of inflation used in the retail sales data, the retail price deflator, picked up to 2.2 percent after sinking in March to its lowest since January 2017 at 1.9 percent. The ONS said retail sales in cash terms grew by 3.5 percent in April in annual terms, up from 3.2 percent in March.