Friday 23 April 2021 7:15 am

UK retail sales surge higher in March ahead of lockdown easing

Retail sales continued to recover in March with a monthly increase of 5.4 per cent as the nearing of Covid restrictions loosening boosted consumer spending.

This exceeded a prediction from economics of a monthly increase of 1.5 per cent, data from the Office for National Statistics showed on Friday.

Sales were 1.6 per cent higher than in February 2020, before the impact of the pandemic struck.

The ONS said the data reflected “the effect of the easing of coronavirus restrictions on consumer spending.”

Separate data showed the UK government borrowed more than £303.1bn in the last financial year, a surge of £246bn on the previous twelve months.

Borrowing stood at 14.5 per cent of economic output, the highest ratio since 1946, when it was 15.2 per cent.

The numbers reflected the rise in public spending and tax cuts to offset the economic hit from the pandemic.

Commenting on the new ONS data, Jon Hudson, fund manager of the Premier Miton UK Growth Fund, said: “Despite the country being in lockdown during March, the 5.4 per cent growth in retail sales volumes were surprisingly strong.

“Clothing stores in particular saw an impressive jump of 17.5 per cent as consumers spent their forced savings accumulated over the past year and readied their wardrobes for a more normal summer.”