United Kingdom retail sales 'slow in January'

Total retail sales edged up 0.1% in January compared with growth of 3.3% in the same month of a year ago, according to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail/Online Sales Monitor.

Online sales accounted for the highest ever level of year-on-year non-food growth, at 2.9 per cent in the months to January.

That missed forecasts for an increase of 0.9% following the 1.0% gain in December.

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Total sales rose just 0.1 per cent, against a 3.3 per cent increase in January past year, according to figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG. That's a contrast to the previous January when they rose by 14.9%, and is above the 12 month average of 9.5% growth.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC [IRDX VBRC] said: "Online channels achieved the highest share of total non-food retail spend on record in the three months to January, despite the 8% growth being somewhat below the trend of late". The results also show this is the weakest performance since last August. This reading was much lower than the 2.6% growth witnessed in 2016.

Food sales grew by 0.6 per cent in the three months leading the January on a like for like basis, and two per cent on a total basis, marking the second consecutive two per cent quarterly growth.

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Analysts said the retail sales figures as a whole suggest that shoppers might be starting to cut back on spending as their disposable income is squeezed by rising prices and growing personal debt.

Analysts at broker Shore Capital said the data suggested "folks did indeed have a bit of a Christmas fling, especially enjoying food and drink, but have adopted a more cautionary position with the start of the new calendar year".

Non-food retail online sales grew by 8 per cent in January, almost half the growth seen in January 2015, when they grew by 14.9 per cent. "Closer inspection reveals that this was driven by slowing sales in non-food sectors".

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