LONDON (Reuters) – British consumers’ New Year resolutions to get match proved much less wholesome for retailers final month, as gross sales rose a lot lower than anticipated and a longer-term backdrop of rising costs and lacklustre wages additionally weighed on progress.
Even by the requirements of a standard January, demand for health club put on and sporting items was unusually excessive – however this was not sufficient to offset a chunky fall within the quantity of meals purchases, the Office for National Statistics stated on Friday.
Overall, retail gross sales volumes rose zero.1 % on the month, effectively under forecasts in a Reuters ballot for a month-to-month rise of zero.5 %, after dropping 1.four % in December.
In year-on-year phrases, gross sales grew by 1.6 % – the quickest since August, however nonetheless proper on the backside finish of economists’ vary of forecasts.
“Analysts will no doubt be digesting these figures to determine if this was a reflection of households setting about 2018 with the aim of shedding some pounds, or … merely symptomatic of the extent of the broader household cash squeeze underway,” Investec economist Victoria Clarke stated.
Britain’s economic system underperformed its rivals final yr as increased inflation – brought on by the autumn within the pound since June 2016’s Brexit vote – damage customers’ spending energy, although forecasts for a extreme downturn proved too pessimistic.
The Bank of England expects the buyer squeeze to ease in 2018 as inflation cools from close to six-year highs and wage progress ticks increased, though surveys of British households recommend sentiment stays subdued.
Andrew Sentance, a senior financial adviser to accountants PwC and former BoE rate-setter, stated it might take till the second half of the yr on the earliest till customers felt the advantage of decrease inflation.
Consumer worth inflation hit its highest in additional than 5 years in November, at three.1 %, and has barely fallen since, although the narrower gauge used for retail gross sales dropped to a six-month low of two.eight % final month.
“The first half of this year will continue to be a difficult environment for retailers and other consumer-facing sectors,” Sentance stated.
Last week the BoE forecast real-terms family consumption progress would gradual to 1.25 % in 2018 from 1.5 % in 2017 as demand shifted in the direction of business funding and exports.
Looking at gross sales over the three months to January, which smoothes out sharp strikes brought on by November’s Black Friday reductions, gross sales inched up simply zero.1 % after an increase of zero.5 % within the three months to December, marking the weakest three-month interval since April 2017.
The figures took some shine off sterling, which was headed for its greatest weekly efficiency in opposition to the U.S. greenback in 5 months.
In money phrases, spending within the three months to January was four.four % increased than a yr earlier, with three.zero % progress in meals spending. Shoppers are additionally stretching their budgets by change to cheaper meals shops.
Market analysis company Kantar Worldpanel stated final week that Tesco was the highest performer of Britain’s 4 largest grocery store teams over the 12 weeks to the tip of January, posting gross sales progress of two.6 %. All 4 lost market share to low cost chains Aldi and Lidl.