UK retail sales bounce back in January

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A shopper stands in the door of a shop advertising sale discounts on onOxford Street in London on December 13, 2018 less than two weeks before Christmas..
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Retail sales bounced back sharply in January, rising by 1% on the previous month, official figures showed.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the amount of goods sold rose by 1%, after falling by 0.7% in December, with discounts in clothing helping to boost sales.

Compared with a year ago, retail sales were 4.2% higher in January.

That was the biggest annual rise since December 2016. The figures beat most economists’ expectations.

“Clothing stores saw strong sales, luring consumers with price reductions, with food sales also growing after a slight dip after Christmas,” said ONS statistician Rhian Murphy.

The ONS said clothing prices fell by the most since August 2016.

The figures suggest that consumer spending may have picked up again after a lull following the summer’s World Cup.

The findings echo those from the British Retail Consortium, which indicated that shops saw their fastest sales growth for seven months in January.

Other recent figures have shown wages picking up after years of stagnation and rising faster than inflation.

Duncan Brewer, from consultants Oliver Wyman, said there could be an element of Brexit-influenced buying: “After a slow December, retail sales have bounced back after Black Friday in November.

“It appears that shoppers are shopping before Brexit hits, either to stockpile products they worry won’t be available, or in fear of big price increases post-29 March.”

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