UK retail sales in first annual fall since 2013

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UK retail sales fell by 0.3% in October from a year earlier, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the first annual fall since March 2013.

Higher inflation had dampened spending, the ONS said, but it also said October last year had seen very strong growth.

Other figures showed sales in October rose 0.3% from the previous month, and for the three months to October sales were 0.9% higher from year earlier.

The ONS said this indicated the underlying pattern was one of growth.

The statistics body said that non-food stores, “in particular second-hand goods stores (charity shops, auction houses, antiques and fine art dealers) provided the largest contribution to this growth”.

The latest inflation figures, released earlier this week, showed prices rising at an annual rate of 3%. The ONS said food prices had risen by 3.5% and general retail prices by 3.1%.

ONS statistician Kate Davies said: “We are continuing to see an underlying picture of steady growth in retail sales, although this October suffered in comparison with a very strong October in 2016.”

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said there were a whole host of factors that had held back October sales, and that the retail industry was likely to see a pick up in November.

“Unseasonably warm weather and Storms Brian and Ophelia coinciding with half-term saw some shoppers temporarily stay away from the High Street, impacting footfall and sales of non-food items – particularly new season clothing lines.

“We expect stronger retail sales in November, as many retailers have waited until after Halloween to kick start their Black Friday and Christmas campaigns.”

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