British retail sales jumped unexpectedly in April, official data showed on Friday, but the outlook for consumer spending remained resolutely downbeat as the cost-of-living crunch intensifies.
Retail sales volumes rose by 1.4% month-on-month last month after a 1.2% drop in March, the ONS data showed.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected a 0.2% monthly fall in retail sales.
The wider picture, however, remains weak.
Retail sales in the three months to April fell 0.3%, after a 0.7% drop in March.
Earlier on Friday, Britain's longest-running gauge of consumer confidence, the GfK survey, fell to its lowest since records began in 1974.
British Retail Consortium Viewpoint
Commenting on the ONS data, Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said, “Retail sales are being squeezed by a combination of low demand, high inflation and rising costs. The fall in demand comes as consumers reign in their discretionary spending following a significant reduction to real incomes for households across the UK.
"Meanwhile, retailers face higher food and commodity prices, increased shipping and transport costs, and the tightest labour market in decades."
Dickinson added that retailers are "working hard" to keep costs down where possible, such as by introducing more affordable product ranges, "however it is impossible to mitigate all the costs coming through their supply chains. Until inflation is brought to heel, and consumer confidence returns, retailers could be in for some difficult times ahead, with lower demand and reduced margins.”
News by Reuters, edited by ESM – your source for the latest retail news. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.