Retail sales see July spike thanks to promotions

Retail sales edged up in July.

Retail sales edged up in July. - Credit: PA

Retail sales edged up in July as shoppers took advantage of high street promotions to splash out on electrical appliances and furniture, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said retail sales by volume rose 0.1% month-on-month in July in a reversal of the unexpected 0.1% fall seen in June.

Sales in household goods stores surged 13.4% higher year-on-year in July as a raft of discounts and stronger housing market conditions boosted demand.

But the rise in sales was lower than the 0.4% rise expected by most economists, with a fall in fuel sales on forecourts holding back progress in the retail sector.

Paul Hollingsworth, UK economist at Capital Economics, said the weaker than expected retail sales figures were “nothing to worry about”.

He added: “The prospects for retail spending remain bright. Real pay is rising strongly, unemployment is still low and the recent fall-back in the oil price and the forthcoming cut to gas prices should give households’ discretionary spending power another healthy boost.”

The ONS said, on an annual basis, sales were 4.2% higher in July, marking the 28th month in a row of year-on-year growth, which is the longest run for more than seven years.

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The underlying picture is also healthy, with quarter-on-quarter sales up by 0.5%, although falls in prices on the high street has seen sales by value drop by 0.2% between June and July.

Prices were slashed across the household goods and furniture sector in the traditional summer sales, with prices down by 2.4% month-on-month in July.

This helped household goods sales rise 3.6% by volume between June and July, with electrical appliances, furniture and lighting items among those selling well.

Consumers are being boosted by record low interest rates and as wage growth outstrips inflation, which remains near historic lows, with the Consumer Prices Index currently standing at 0.1%.

All stores across the retail sector except clothes shops saw average store prices fall year-on-year in July, with petrol stations recording the steepest drop, at 10.9%, according to the ONS.

It added that online sales remained unchanged between June and July, but were 13% higher year-on-year.

John Hawksworth, PricewaterhouseCooper’s chief economist, said: “Overall, the figures suggest that consumer spending will remain a positive contributor to economic growth in the third quarter, but at a more moderate pace than earlier in the year.”