Retail sales in Britain fell more than expected in March as bad weather kept shoppers at home, ending two months of rising consumer spending.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said retail sales volumes fell 0.9% last month as the wettest March in 40 years dampened shoppers’ enthusiasm for visiting department stores, clothing stores and shopping malls. of gardening.
The drop, which followed increases of 1.1% and 0.9% in February and March respectively, was larger than the 0.5% drop expected by economists.
Non-food store sales fell 1.3% year-on-year in March, following a sharp 2.4% rise in February, as retailers lamented the impact of the weather on customer purchases. The Met Office has said last month was the sixth wettest March on record since 1836.
Sales volumes at department stores and clothing stores fell 3.2% and 1.7% mom, while sales fell 0.6% at jewelry stores and garden centers.
“Retail trade fell sharply in March as bad weather hit sales in almost every sector,” said Darren Morgan, ONS director of economic statistics. “In the past month, department stores, clothing stores and garden centers have all experienced sharp declines as significant rains dampened shopping enthusiasm.”
The ONS also posted a 0.7% drop in sales at grocery stores, after a 0.6% rise in February, as consumers felt the pinch of high food prices.
Earlier this week, the ONS reported that the price of food and non-alcoholic beverages accelerated 19.1% in the year to March, driven by record growth in the price of bread and cereals and a sharp increase in cookies and cakes, its fastest annual rate since 1977.
However, the strong start to the year meant that sales in the first quarter as a whole showed their first quarterly increase since August 2021.