UK retail sales fall less-than-expected as food spending surges


UK retail sales performed better-than-expected in June as a surge in holiday food sales helped mask the impact of broader cost of living pressures.

The volume of goods sold in stores and online fell 0.1 percent after registering a 0.8 percent drop in May, larger than previously reported, the Bureau for National Statistics said on Friday. Economists had expected a decline of 0.2 percent.

In June, food sales related to the anniversary holiday rose 3.1 percent, mitigating the impact of a 4.3 percent drop in fuel sales as drivers suffered amid record prices. Purchases of clothing and household goods also fell. Non-autofuel sales rose 0.4% for the month, according to the ONS.

“Fuel sales fell significantly as retailers reported record prices at the pump that matched sales,” said Heather Bovill, ONS deputy director of surveys and economic indicators. “Apparel purchases fell along with homewares, with retailers suggesting consumers should rein in spending due to higher prices and affordability concerns.”

The ONS also warned that the overall trend in sales continued to decline. The monthly measurement has proved a volatile data point post-pandemic, oscillating between large declines and smaller rallies.

In a sign of a slow return to normal, the share of online retail spending has now fallen to its lowest level since the pandemic began in March 2020. The share is now at 25.3 per cent compared to the February 2021 peak of 37.4 pcs. That is still above the 19.7 per cent level in February 2020 before Covid struck.

A separate report by GfK earlier on Friday showed the broader implications of rising inflation. Consumer confidence held at a record low this month as rising food and fuel prices made consumers feel “majorly depressed,” the company said.

Read more: UK consumer confidence falls to a 48-year low, a survey has revealed

The worst livelihood crisis in a generation, with inflation at a 40-year high and on track to hit double digits in months, is the backdrop to the race to succeed Boris Johnson as leader of the ruling Conservative Party.

The battle is between Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who has promised tens of billions of pounds in tax cuts if she wins, and former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, a continuity candidate who is pinning his hopes on a reputation for prudence.

“Discretionary spending and particularly larger purchases have been put off as consumers grow increasingly concerned about the future,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium. UK retail sales fall less-than-expected as food spending surges

Fry Electronics Team

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