UK retail sales growth slows less than expected in January

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RETAIL SALES growth slowed by less than expected in January, helped by the biggest rise in clothing sales in almost two years, an industry survey showed.

The Confederation of British Industry’s distributive trades survey’s retail sales balance fell to +39 from December’s 27-year high of +61 that was fuelled by a “Black Friday” shopping frenzy.

Economists had expected a steeper slowdown this month to +30.

“After the sales bonanza of Black Friday cooled down, retailers saw solid footfall through the doors over the Christmas trading period, leading to further robust growth in sales in the New Year,” said Rain Newton-Smith, CBI director of economics.

“Falling oil prices and low inflation mean consumers have a bit more money in their pockets.

“We expect to see this translate into strong sales growth in the months ahead.”

The CBI said growth in retail was broad-based, with clothing sales rising at the fastest rate since February 2013.

Half of retailers said that sales volumes were up in January on a year ago, whilst 10 per cent said they were down, giving a rounded balance of +39 per cent. This was above expectations (+35 per cent).

Official data last week showed retail sales unexpectedly rose in December as shoppers flocked to supermarkets and bought more fuel on the back of falling oil prices.

The retail sector accounts for nearly 6 per cent of the British economy.

Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said the CBI survey was encouraging and supports the belief that consumer spending is likely to be robust in 2015..

He added: “The prospects for retail sales and consumer spending overall for 2015 currently look bright given significantly improving real earnings growth, rising employment and elevated confidence.”

The January 2015 Distributive Trades Survey was conducted between January 2 and 15. 127 firms replied.