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Another day, another miss. UK retail sales dropped -1.2% in March

Another day, another data miss in the UK.

Retail sales including auto and fuel dropped -1.2% mom in March, well below expectation of -0.6%. Annual rate rose 1.1% yoy, below expectation of 1.9% yoy.

Retail sales excluding auto and fuel dropped -0.5%, below expectation of -0.4%. Annual rate rose 1.1% yoy, below expectation of 1.4% yoy.

Main points from ONS:

  • In the three months to March 2018 (Quarter 1), the quantity bought in retail sales fell by 0.5% when compared with Quarter 4 (Oct to Dec) 2017, with declines in all sectors except for department stores and non-store retailing.
  • The month-on-month growth rate fell by 1.2% due to a large fall of 7.4% from petrol sales; a likely consequence of adverse weather conditions, which impacted travel.
  • Department stores were the only sector to show positive growth in March at 0.8%, with feedback from retailers suggesting that online offers for Mothering Sunday and Easter boosted internet sales more than usual during the adverse weather.
  • The quantity bought in supermarket stores declined in March, while specialist food stores saw strong growth; possibly due to the easier access to these stores during snow.
  • Online sales accounted for 17.4% of all retailing, seasonally adjusted in March 2018, compared with 15.9% in March 2017; the strongest growth on the same month a year earlier came from department stores at 33%.

Statistician’s comment

Commenting on today’s official retail figures, Rhian Murphy, ONS Senior Statistician said:

  • “Retail sales fell in the first quarter due to a large decline in March with petrol sales seeing a significant slump as a result of the poor weather keeping many shoppers indoors. However, the snow actually helped boost online spending with department stores in particular seeing growth in their web sales.
  • “Various shops also reported increased spending on gifts in the run-up to Easter and Mother’s Day, which also helped boost online sales.”

GBP dips initially after the release, for so far, there is no follow through selling yet.

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