[LONDON] British retail spending accelerated last month as shoppers splashed out more than usual in the January sales, while food sales rose for the second month in a row, an industry survey showed on Tuesday.
The British Retail Consortium said retail spending was 1.6 per cent higher this January than a year ago, following a 1.0 per cent year-on-year rise in December.
The survey was the latest to suggest Britain's consumers are becoming more willing to spend after a recent end to years of falling real incomes, and that they will continue to be the driving force behind the country's economy - the main battleground for May 7's national election. "The clothing, toys and household appliances sectors particularly benefited from this spending spree, notching up year-on-year growth against tough comparables from the year before," said David McCorquodale, at survey sponsor KPMG.
But he added that retailers have been caught in a "difficult cycle", with demand driven almost solely by discounts. "This promotion-led environment risks becoming the new normal - retailers are struggling to persuade consumers to break the habit and go back to the traditional sales cycle." Retail spending on the BRC's like-for-like measure - which excludes new stores and more closely reflects how stores report sales to shareholders - rose 0.2 per cent on the year, compared with a 0.4 per cent decline in December.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast faster growth of 0.5 per cent.