Business

UK retail sales fall 1.3% in March

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Retail sales volumes dropped 1.3% in March, compared with February, a bigger fall than was expected.

However, the figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also found volumes were 2.7% higher in March from a year earlier, the 35th consecutive month of annual growth.

Average store prices, including petrol stations, were 3.0% lower in March compared with a year earlier.

That indicates inflation in the UK will continue to remain low.

The amount spent in the retail industry slipped by 0.1% from a year earlier, and was down 1.3% from February.

Growth in online sales continued to outstrip sales from physical outlets. The value of online sales was 8.9% higher than a year ago.

Keith Richardson, from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said the figures showed the impact of an early Easter, as well as bad weather from Storm Katie: "The four-day Easter weekend normally brings with it bumper sales of food, spring fashion and plenty of DIY and gardening goods as families use the extra days off to spruce up their homes.

"Not only did Easter come too early for people looking to refresh their spring wardrobes, but it also coincided with bad weather sweeping across much of the UK, dampening any enthusiasm for gardening equipment."

The British Chambers of Commerce said the figures confirmed the picture of a weakening UK economy.

Its chief economist, David Kern, said: "Although longer-term comparisons show that sales are still expanding, the pace of growth is slowing.

"These figures reinforce our view that UK economic growth slowed in the first quarter of 2016."

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