Retail sales slump as Beast from the East keeps shoppers away

The bad weather caused by the so-called Beast from the East has led to disappointing sales for British shops, with customers staying away, new figures show.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has recorded the biggest quarterly fall in retail sales for 12 months – from January to February 2018, sales were 0.5% lower than they were in the last three months of 2017.

The worst of the weather came in March – and sales volumes were down 1.2% that month, compared to February. Economists had only predicted a drop of 0.5%, says The Times.

Sales of petrol fell dramatically in March, says the ONS, with motorists advised not to travel. Food and clothes stores suffered as shoppers stayed at home.

The poor figures are likely to drag down the economy as a whole. The ONS says growth is now likely to be 0.03% lower for the first quarter of the year – perhaps down to 0.3% or 0.2%, coming after growth of 0.4% in the last quarter of 2017.

However, there is cause for optimism: economists expect retail sails to rise for April. Ruth Gregory of Capital Economics said: “If the past is anything to go by, much of the spending lost during the bad weather will be made up at a later date. As such we expect sales volumes to rebound in April.”


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