Pedestrians carrying umbrellas to shelter from rain pass in front of a Hennes & Mauritz AB (H&M) store featuring a window display of spring clothes. (Photographer: Jacobia Dahm/Bloomberg)

U.K. Retail Sales Jump As Discounts Spur Spending on Clothing

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. retail sales rose at their fastest pace in six months in January as consumers flocked to snap up cut-price clothing.

Excluding auto fuel, the volume of goods sold in stores and online rose 1.2 percent from December, when they fell 1 percent in a Black Friday hangover, the Office for National Statistics said Friday. Total sales grew 1 percent. A 0.2 percent gain had been forecast on both measures.

U.K. Retail Sales Jump As Discounts Spur Spending on Clothing

The figures were boosted by clothing sales, which grew 2.1 percent in a month that saw the steepest New Year discounts for five years. Food sales also rebounded. But there were also signs of pressure on the high street as sales at department stores eased and household goods dropped 4.4 percent, the biggest decline since May 2017, despite both sectors seeing lower prices.

Key Insights

  • Figures cap a volatile period, as statisticians struggle to adjust for the shift in spending patterns caused by Black Friday falling in November. Overall sales in the latest three months rose 0.7 percent, leaving them up 3.5 percent on the year.
  • Sales in the fourth quarter were revised to show no change, compared with a previous estimate of a 0.2 percent decline.
  • High Street trading remains tough as Brexit uncertainty saps consumer confidence, and retail lobbies warn of worse to come if Britain leaves the EU without a deal to cushion the blow on March 29.
  • The survey was carried out between Dec. 30 and Jan. 26.
  • Non-store sales rose 3.7 percent in January. The value of online sales declined to 18.8 percent of the total.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.