Retail concerns ease as sales rebound after June slump

UK retail sales have rebounded from their June slump, providing some assurance that Brexit is not deterring shoppers from splashing out.

Economists said the figures bode well for third-quarter growth prospects. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), sales grew by 1.4 per cent in July, much better than expectations for a 0.1 per cent rise.

The figures come after retail sales suffered their sharpest fall in six months in June, contracting by 0.9 per cent from a month earlier, although the ONS said poor weather rather than Brexit was to blame.

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Compared to the same time last year, July sales growth increased to 5.9 per cent. The latest reporting period accounted for the month following the EU referendum, covering the four-week period from 3 to 30 July.

Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said: “While July’s jump in retail sales bodes well for third-quarter growth prospects, much still depends on business behaviour in the aftermath of the Brexit vote. It also remains to be seen if consumers continue to spend at a decent clip.

“The sizzling retail sales performance in July was helped by the warm weather boosting clothing sales. There were also reports that the pound’s weakness encouraged tourist visitors to the UK to buy expensive items such as jewellery and watches.”

Sterling rose 0.4 per cent against the dollar on the news, rising almost a cent and breaking through $1.31. Against the euro, the pound gained 0.2 per cent to €1.15.

Average store prices, including petrol stations, dropped by 2 per cent compared to a year earlier, and were down by 0.8 per cent from June. However, the value of online sales jumped by 16.7 per cent compared to last year and 1.2 per cent from a month earlier.

All sectors saw sales growth last month, but consumers spent more at non-food stores rather than supermarkets.

Paul Morales, a retail specialist at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “Consumer spending habits have not fallen as sharply following the referendum as had been forecast by some.

“That being the case, retailers will be hoping that the current good weather holds, and that the feel-good factor being created by the Olympics translates to further spending on food and drink and Games-related merchandise.”