With all the doom and gloom of recent economic data, including rising inflation and higher unemployment, there’s finally a small speck of light and that’s in the form UK retail sales. The latest data from the ONS suggests that sales in the UK in September were higher than previously forecast and reversed the 0.4% decline we saw in August. A big contributing factor to this positive data was a boost to online sales, but this small glimmer of hope is unlikely to be sufficient to keep the economy going – unless sales keep rising, we are unlikely to see any significant increase in economic growth.
The data, while positive, is still unlikely to have any impact on economic policy. The minutes from the Monetary Policy Committee showed that there was unanimous support for further quantitative easing, as the threat of weak growth and financial instability and uncertainty remains. An economist from Barclays Capital said:
‘We don’t think the recent strong growth in monthly sales is likely to be sustained…The environment for retailers is likely to remain challenging as consumer spending remains depressed driven by low confidence and slow earnings growth.’
The data from September is positive, but it does little to offset the decline in sales seen in August. It was revised down from 0.2% to 0.4% – some blame the hot weather, which discouraged consumers from hitting the high streets in preparation for the winter. The key data to look out for will be sales figures for the next few months. Only then will we have more of an indication about exactly which direction the economy is moving in. The following articles consider this latest economic data.
Retail sales in UK unexpectedly increase at fastest pace in five months Bloomberg, Scott Hamilton (20/10/11)
UK retail sales see stronger-than-expected rise BBC News (20/10/11)
Nothing expected from today’s UK retail sales figure FX-MM, Richard Driver (20/10/11)
Retail sales: what the economists say Guardian (20/10/11)
£1 in every £10 now spent online, says ONS Telegraph, Harry Wallop (20/10/11)
Retail sales rise more than expected Financial Times, Sarah O’Connor (20/10/11)
Retail sales up but good weather has a price Sky News (20/10/11)
- Which factors have contributed to the higher than expected sales figures for September?
- Why do economists not believe that the higher growth in sales means signs of recovery for the UK economy?
- How has higher inflation impacted UK households?
- To what extent do you think the warm weather held back retail sales?
- What could explain why there has been a significant growth in online sales?