Retail sales have jumped unexpectedly last month, shoppers seem to have been ignoring the looming Brexit
This week new data was released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) that showed retail sales unexpectedly jumping in February and March, meaning British consumers were not at all affected by Brexit uncertainty. Food sales were the only subcategory to see a drop in sales, which the ONS attributed to the end of the January sales. Retail sales were up 1.1% last month, while the average weekly earning, excluding bonuses, rose 3.4% in the three months to February, and the unemployment rate was lower than at any time since the end of 1975.
Over the past 12 months overall retail sales were up 6.7% but department store sales were down 0.3%, while the year-on-year rise in retail sales between March 2018 and March 2019 of 6.7% was the highest since October 2016. The ONS also said that the mild weather helped boost sales in comparison with the “Beast from the East” last year. Head of retail sales at the ONS, Rhian Murphy, stated:
“Retail sales increased in the three months to March, following sustained growth throughout the first three months of the year. March’s mild weather boosted sales, with food shops also recovering after a weak February.”
Ed Monk, associate director for personal investing at Fidelity International, provided more information saying: “This week’s economic releases have ended with good news. Even accounting for the Beast from the East, which kept shoppers at home a year ago, today’s retail sales data show households willing to spend more. That reflects a slow recovery from a decade-long wage squeeze and, perhaps, a willingness to look through the apparently never-ending uncertainty that is Brexit”.