UK retail sales grew for the first time in five months in April, according to a major business group, in the latest sign that consumer spending is holding up despite ongoing political uncertainty.
However, Easter falling later this year probably helped the figures, said the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), who released the survey results today.
The survey of firms revealed that more retailers said sales volumes were up in April than said they had fallen, pushing the CBI’s retail index up to 13, marking the first time sales had grown since November 2018.
In March, the index sank to minus 18, its lowest score in 17 months.
Groceries and other normal goods, such as jewellery and flowers, were the two primary drivers behind this month’s sales growth, the CBI said.
Sales of clothing and in department stores performed less well, suggesting that although consumers are spending, they are putting off purchasing more expensive, non-essential items.
Rain Newton-Smith, CBI chief economist, said: “It’s encouraging to see retailers with more of a spring in their step than in recent months. The recent pick up in real wages is a welcome support to the sector.”
Yet she said: “Falling sales in clothing and department stores underline how challenging underlying conditions remain.”
Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said: “The jump in the reported sales balance to its highest level since November is another encouraging sign that the Brexit saga hasn’t discouraged households from increasing spending in line with their rising incomes.”
He added: “Growth in their spending likely will keep GDP on a steady rising path this year.”