UK’s high street sales slip after the January bounce

RETAIL sales dropped more sharply than expected in February, official data showed yesterday.

Compared to January, sales were down 0.8 per cent, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) revealed.

“Stripping out the increase in auto fuel sales, then the figure was down one per cent on the month,” noted Alan Clarke, economist at BNP Paribas.

In January, these core sales were up 1.1 per cent compared to December.

“A weak number always looked likely on the back of the plunge in consumer confidence, and prices that are rising at double the pace of household income growth,” Clarke added.

The result left the annualised rise in sales at just 1.3 per cent, in terms of volume.

On a comparison of the last three months with the previous three months, which helps iron out volatility, sales were narrowly up 0.1 per cent.

“The average level of retail sales volumes in January-February is 0.5 per cent above the average in the last three months of 2010,” said Citigroup’s Michael Saunders.