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Retail sales, Great Britain - Office for National Statistics

19 January 2018

United Kingdom retail sales in December declined more-than-expected from the previous month when consumers were lured by Black Friday promotions, data from the Office for National Statistics revealed Friday. The expected growth rate was 2.6%.

The research reveals that shopping for Christmas has shifted in recent years, from being mainly in December to more in November, as consumers seem to be starting their purchasing earlier in line with Black Friday promotions.

"This means we could see an end to falling real wages in the coming months, which would provide a welcome fillip to cash-strapped households", said Ben Brettell, senior economist at stockbrokers Hargreaves Lansdown.

"Consumers continue to move Christmas purchases earlier with higher spending in November and lower spending in December than seen in previous years".

The inflation rate dipped to 3 percent in December, down from November's rate of 3.1 percent, according to official data.

"However, the longer-term picture is one of slowing growth, with increased prices squeezing people's spending".

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"All of this discounting is likely to have decimated profit margins and retailers will be counting the cost", said Richard Lim, chief executive at consultancy Retail Economics.

Last week Britain's biggest retailer Tesco (TSCO.L) missed forecasts for Christmas trading as strong food sales were undermined by weak demand for general goods such as DVDs and computer games.

Data from the Office for National Statistics showed average weekly spending by United Kingdom households rose to £554.20 in the year ending March 31 2017, up from £533 the previous year.

For the whole of 2017 the quantity bought in retail sales increased by only 1.9%, making it the lowest annual growth since 2013.

Similarly, sales excluding auto fuel decreased 1.6%, in contrast to November's 1.1% increase.

Retail sales, Great Britain - Office for National Statistics