Retail sales showed “strong growth” year on year in terms of value and volume in March, the latest data from the Office for National Statistics shows.
Year-on-year sales were up 6.6% by value and 6.2% by volume, excluding fuel – the biggest increase since October 2016. The ONS put this “strong growth” down to the “bad weather experienced in March 2018”.
Over the last three months, sales grew by 5.1% in terms of value and 4.8% by volume, excluding fuel, compared to the same period in 2018.
The ONS figures show non-food stores were the largest contributor towards the increase in March both for quantity bought and amount spent.
Online sales as a proportion of all retail increased by 0.5 percentage points to 18.6%, from the 18.1% reported in February.
For the month, all four of the ONS’ “main sectors” – fuel, non-store retailing, non-food stores and food stores – contributed positively to the overall retail spend, resulting in 7.3% year-on-year growth. Non-store retailing provided the largest contribution to the growth in the amount.
Retail analyst at GlobalData Emily Salter warned that despite the uptick in March, consumer sentiment remains “highly negative” around Brexit uncertainty.
“The potential extension of the Brexit deadline to October 31, 2019 is likely to constrain consumer spending on non-essential goods throughout the period, in particular due to concerns surrounding inflation.
“In the short term, the school Easter holidays will drive footfall to stores in April, but the good weather predicted over the Easter weekend is likely to provide more of a boost to leisure rather than retail spending.”