December UK retail sales in surprise rise

| January 23, 2009 | 0 Comments

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have revealed a shock rise in UK retail sales for the Christmas period.

According to the ONS, the volume of UK retail sales rose by 1.6% in December - boosted by price discounts from non-food retailers who slashed prices to entice consumers into the shops.

However, the organisation said the value of sales fell 0.8% when compared to the same period the previous year, this is the biggest drop since records began in 1986.

It was the second month in a row that the ONS reported a rise in retail sales. December’s 1.6% rise in the volume of retail sales followed a rise of 1.5% in November.

Meanwhile, sales via the internet represented 3.5% of December’s total, an increase of 19.6% compared with a year ago. These figures are evident that consumers are shunning the High Street in favour of the comfort of their own home.

However, the ONS did point out that December’s sales performance was difficult to compare with the previous year due to a number of ‘exceptional factors’.

For example, there was aggressive discounting by retailers and a cut in VAT from 17.5% to 15%. Furthermore the period of 1st to 3rd January was also included in the December data which did not occur in previous years.

Consequently, the ONS said the figures should be treated ‘with caution‘.

In related news, official figures today confirmed that the UK is in recession after Gross Domestic Product fell by 1.5% in the fourth quarter of last year, following a 0.6% contraction in the three months prior to that.

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