UK retail sales declined more-than-expected in March on unusually cold and adverse weather, official data revealed Thursday.
Retail sales including auto fuel, dropped 1.2 percent month-on-month in March, in contrast to a 0.8 percent rise in February, the Office for National Statistics reported. Sales were forecast to fall 0.6 percent.
Similarly, excluding auto fuel, retail sales volume dropped 0.5 percent reversing a 0.4 percent rise in February. Economists had expected a 0.4 percent decrease.
There was a large fall of 7.4 percent in petrol sales. Department stores were the only sector to show positive growth in March, at 0.8 percent, as online offers for Mothering Sunday and Easter boosted internet sales more than usual.
March’s retail sales figures were always likely to be weak after the unusually bad weather at the start of the month, Ruth Gregory, an economist at Capital Economics, said. And with the bulk of the lost spending likely to be made up, the bad news should not last long.
On a yearly basis, overall retail sales volume growth eased to 1.1 percent in March from 1.5 percent a month ago. Economists had forecast sales to grow at a faster pace of 1.9 percent.
Sales, excluding auto fuel, also grew by 1.1 percent after rising 1.2 percent in the previous month. The expected rate of growth was 1.4 percent.
In the first quarter, retail sales dropped 0.5 percent from the preceding quarter, the biggest fall in a year. This will cut 0.03 percentage points from GDP growth.
The retail sales deflator that adjusts for inflation in retail price development, rose only 1.9 percent annually in March, the weakest since January 2017.