British retailers suffered their worst start to the year since 2013, as annual growth in sales slowed to 1.6 percent compared with 2.3 percent in the same month in 2017, according to recent data from the Office for National Statistics.
Month-on-month growth in January was also disappointing, with the volume of retail sales up by only 0.1 percent, far below the 0.5 percent growth expected by analysts.
Consumer spending has been weighed down by prices increasing quicker than wages as inflation has risen, fuelled by the fall in the pound following the EU referendum.
The ONS noted that the figures were affected by an unusually big surge in shoppers looking to fulfil New Year’s resolutions to get fit, with sales of sports equipment, toys and games up 11 percent compared with the same period in 2017.
However, the good news for gyms and athleisure sellers was counterbalanced by bad news for supermarkets and grocers: the volume of food sales declined by 0.9 percent month-on-month.
January’s weak growth follows a sharp retreat in December, when sales dropped 1.5 percent compared with the month earlier.
Inflation remains close to a five-year peak of 3 percent in January, according to figures published recently. Wage growth has not kept up with inflation, and increased just 2.5 percent in the three months to November 2017.
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