UK retail sales rise despite Brexit turmoil

Little sign of stockpiling also

Consumer spending has been the main engine of growth in the UK since the Brexit referendum in June, 2016.

Consumer spending has been the main engine of growth in the UK since the Brexit referendum in June, 2016.

 

British consumers appear to have shrugged off Brexit uncertainty in February as retail sales unexpectedly jumped during the month, according to data published by the Office for National Statistics.

Volumes bought rose by 0.4 per cent compared with the previous month. City economists had expected a decline of 0.4 per cent.

There was little sign of stockpiling ahead of a potentially disorderly Brexit either. Food sales were the only subcategory to see a decline in sales during the month.

Consumer spending has been the main engine of growth in the UK since the Brexit referendum in June 2016. Despite higher import prices following the fall in the pound, Britons kept spending and often borrowed more to do so.

Economists had expected falls in confidence and stretched household finances to prompt consumers to cut back, but the latest data suggest they remain relatively immune to uncertainty.

Rhian Murphy, the ONS’s head of retail sales, said: “Retail sales continued to bounce back in the three months to February with strong increases in fuel sales and online shopping.

“Food growth slowed, however, due to a significant fall for supermarkets, specialist food and alcohol stores in February after the sales and promotions seen in January came to an end.” – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019