January sees slowest retail sales growth in 6 months

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Retail sales at the start of the year continued to slow down, seeing unexpected declines across all sectors except non-food.

According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), UK retail sales throughout January edged up 0.1 per cent, the slowest rate of growth in six months.

Sales by quantity grew 1.6 per cent year-on-year, marking a significant slowdown on the 2.4 per cent growth seen in January 2017.

New Year’s resolutions reportedly drove a boost in sports equipment, which along with games and toys, which saw sales grow 10.9 per cent.

This helped to partially offset the 0.9 per cent drop in food sales, marking the sixth consecutive month of decline in a row as food prices continue to rise.

“Retail sales growth was broadly flat at the beginning of the New Year with the longer-term picture showing a continued slowdown in the sector,” ONS senior statistician Rhian Murphey said.

“This can partly be attributed to a background of generally rising prices.

“Growth in the quantity of sporting equipment, games and toys being bought was offset by falling food sales when compared with the same month a year earlier.

“Sporting equipment sales have grown more than usual in January 2018, following an increased uptake for gym wear.”

Close Brothers Retail Finance managing director Alex Marsh added: “January discounts helped sustain retailers’ sales after a disappointing end to last year.

“Our data showed that the average spend in January was higher than in December, particularly in the first week of the month which saw purchases up 12 per cent compared to the average day last year.

“Millennials largely drove this trend, purchasing big ticket items such as furniture or electrical gadgets.”

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