UK retail sales experience continued decline

Food sales fell 1.9% in March from February, the biggest decline since January 2014

UK retail sales excluding auto fuel fell 1.6 per cent, the most since January 2014. Photographer: Bloomberg

UK retail sales excluding auto fuel fell 1.6 per cent, the most since January 2014. Photographer: Bloomberg

 

UK retail sales fell for a second month in March as consumers bought less of everything from food to clothing.

The volume of sales dropped 1.3 per cent from February, far more than the 0.1 per cent decline forecast in a Bloomberg survey.

Sales excluding auto fuel fell 1.6 per cent, the most since January 2014.The Office for National Statistics, which published the data on Thursday, also revealed that public-sector borrowing overshot official forecasts in the latest fiscal year.

A £4.8 billion ($6.9 billion) budget deficit in March - less than the £6 billion forecast by economists - left the full-year shortfall at £74 billion, or 3.9 per cent of gross domestic product.

That compares with the £72.2 billion forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility last month.

Retail sales gained 0.8 per cent in the first quarter, suggesting a sector accounting for 5.7 per cent of GDP made little contribution to growth during the period.

Consumers buoyed by record employment and low inflation have been the engine of the expansion as global woes take their toll manufacturing and exports.

Food sales fell 1.9 per cent in March from February, the biggest decline since January 2014. Non-food sales declined 1.5 per cent as clothing and footwear, household goods and department stores all saw declines.

Sales of auto fuel climbed by 0.5 per cent. Overall retail sales rose 3.7 per cent in the first quarter from a year earlier.

They gained 2.7 per cent in March from a year earlier. Measured by the deflator, prices at stores including petrol stations fell an annual 3 per cent in March.

- Bloomberg