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British consumer spending dampened by rainy March

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British retail sales bucked a two-month bull run to fall by 0.9% in March pulled down, retailers said, by unseasonal wet weather that kept consumers home. File photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI

April 21 (UPI) — Bad weather sent British retail sales into reverse in March, pulled down by a sharp fall in spending in department stores that nixed a two-month bull run, the country’s main statistical agency said Friday.

The sixth wettest month on record kept consumers home and sales fell by 0.9%, the first decline since December, mainly due to a surprise 1.3% drop in department, clothing and jewelry store spending that scratched out a 2.4% rise in February, the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show.

The ONS said that feedback from retailers suggested the fall in sales was partly because of poor weather conditions in March.

“Retail fell sharply in March as poor weather impacted on sales across almost all sectors,” ONS Economic Statistics Director Darren Morgan said in a Twitter post. “In the latest month, department stores, clothing shops and garden centers experienced heavy declines as significant rainfall dampened enthusiasm for shopping.”

The Met Office’s monthly climate summary reported that the Brtain saw 155% of average rainfall for the month, making it the sixth wettest March on record since 1836, the ONS said.

Food sales also went into reverse going from a 0.6% rise in February compared with a fall of 0.7% in March hit by higher prices and cost of living pressures, but the ONS said spending may also have taken a hit from shortages of some food items.

Overall, spending was up posting a 0.6% rise in the first quarter compared with the October to December period, the first quarterly rise in two-and-half years.

Capital Economics told the BBC that the quarterly sales performance pointed to the likelihood that an “18-month retail ‘recession’ may have come to an end. Indeed, the more seasonable weather in April may support a rebound in sales this month.”

However, a twelfth consecutive interest rate rise by the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee when it meets next month could impact consumer spending.

The ONS’ latest inflation report on Wednesday said inflation remained in double digits in March despite a 0.3% fall from a high of 10.4% in February, but the inflation rate for food and drink continued upward.

Food and drink inflation, where prices have remained stubbornly high for months, hit its highest level in 45 years, climbing to 19.2%.

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British consumer spending dampened by rainy March Reviewed by RP on April 21, 2023 Rating: 5

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