March retail sales see strongest growth since August

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Consumer Confidence
// Retail sales increased 1.6% in the 3 months to March
// The growth rate in the quantity bought each month increased by 1.1%
// Year-on-year growth in the quantity bought increased by 6.7% in March

Retail sales have had the strongest increase since August last year, according to the latest data from the ONS.

Sales in the three months to March increased 1.6 per cent compared with the previous quarter, making it the strongest growth since August last year.

The growth rate in the quantity bought each month increased by 1.1 per cent, with food stores and non-store retailers being the largest contributors to this increase.

Meanwhile, department stores suffered a 0.3 per cent decrease in sales when compared with March 2018.

Year-on-year growth in the quantity bought increased by 6.7 per cent last month, the highest since October 2016.

ONS also recorded a 1.2 per cent month-on-month increase in retail sales volume.

“We welcome the improving sales figures, however these numbers may not tell the whole story, as Easter distortions are notoriously hard to seasonally adjust,” the BRC’s Anne Alexandre said.

“It is clear that retail is going through a tough year, with increasing store closures and job losses.

“This has been reflected in both the BRC’s Retail Sales Monitor, as well as Visa Consumer Spending Index, which both showed a slowdown in sales.”

She added: “Retail is under enormous pressure from both rising costs and Brexit uncertainty.

“Despite being five per cent of the economy, retailers pay 10 per cent of all business taxes and a staggering 25 per cent of business rates.

“Unless the government want to see more closures on the high streets, and more jobs lost, they must act by reforming Britain’s broken business rates system.”

Many stores acknowledged that warmer weather had helped bolster sales in comparison with the Beast from the East snow storm impacting sales in March 2018.

Furthermore, online sales increased to 18.6 per cent in March 2019, compared with 18.1 per cent in February 2019.

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