Retail sales fall 0.9%: blame the weather, say experts
ONS figures for August take analysts by surprise but economic recovery is 'still on track'
CONFOUNDING optimistic forecasts for the UK's economic recovery from recession, British shoppers spent less in August than they did in July - and significantly less than economists had expected.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) says retail sales fell in August by 0.9 per cent compared to July. While that was still 2.1 per cent higher than August 2012, analysts had expected a rise of 0.4 per
cent: July's figure had been 1.1 per cent stronger than June's.
David Tinsley, UK economist at bank BNP Paribas, told the BBC the figures were "the weakest for some time" but, he added, the slump "seems to be largely down to the weather".
It's thought a sunny July led to an upswing in spending as consumers bought barbecues, alcohol and other fair-weather purchases. Tinsley concluded: "While August was also pleasant, that level of sales was probably difficult to sustain."
The Financial Times's economics editor, Sarah O'Connor, also remained sanguine, saying this "rare piece of disappointing economic data did little to damp hopes for a recovery".
She quoted Martin Beck of Capital Economics, who thought the weather might be to blame. He said: "The continuation of [the] heatwave may have tempted people outdoors and away from the shops."
Beck was disappointed though that the revival in the housing market didn't spur consumers into buying household goods, pushing up retail sales, or at least stopping the decline.
James Knightley, an economist at ING told The Guardian that while the figures were disappointing and had "taken the wind out of the sails of sterling for now" the bigger picture was still optimistic.
He said: "The underlying story still looks good with… consumer confidence rising, employment increasing and credit availability improving."
On Twitter, Anarcho Penguin summed up a point made by several users when he pointed out that the decline was led by food sales, which dropped 2.7 per cent in August, at a time when it has been reported that some people in the UK are finding it hard to afford tofeed themselves.
"UK retail sales in unexpected fall due to 'weaker demand for food' or starvation as the rest of us would call it," he wrote. ·