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UK Retail Sales Rise For Fourth Straight Month

ukretails aug16 18sep20 lt

UK retail sales grew for the fourth straight month in August surpassing the pre-pandemic level, data from the Office for National Statistics showed Friday.

Retail sales volume increased 0.8 percent month-on-month in August, but slower than July's 3.7 percent increase. This was the fourth consecutive monthly rise. Sales were forecast to climb 0.7 percent.

When compared with February 2020's pre-pandemic level, total retail sales were 4.0 percent higher in volume terms.

Retail sales continued to grow, further surpassing their pre-pandemic level," Jonathan Athow, deputy ONS national statistician for economic statistics, said.

The strength of retail sales is particularly striking in a month when non-retail spending, particularly on restaurant meals due to the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, also picked up, Andrew Wishart, an economist at Capital Economics, said.

But spending may yet stutter as the furlough scheme is wound down and unemployment rises, weighing on household incomes and job security, the economist added.

Excluding automotive fuel, retail sales growth eased less-than-expected to 0.6 percent in August from 2.1 percent in July. The rate was expected to slow to 0.4 percent.

Online retail sales fell 2.5 percent in August when compared with July, but the strong growth experienced over the pandemic has meant that sales were still 46.8 percent higher than February's pre-pandemic levels.

Food store sales were up 0.4 percent from July. At the same time, non-food store sales gained 3.4 percent in August driven by a 13.5 percent surge in clothing and footwear sales and a 1.9 percent rise in household goods store sales.

On a yearly basis, retail sales volume growth doubled to 2.8 percent from 1.4 percent. However, this was weaker than economists' forecast of 3 percent.

Excluding auto fuel, retail sales volume advanced 4.3 percent annually versus a 3.1 percent rise in July. Economists had forecast an annual growth of 4.2 percent.

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