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UK consumers slow their spending in March: surveys

Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 07:35

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British consumers reined in their spending last month, according to two surveys published on Tuesday which added to signs of a slowdown in the country's economy.

[LONDON] British consumers reined in their spending last month, according to two surveys published on Tuesday which added to signs of a slowdown in the country's economy.

The British Retail Consortium said retail sales failed to grow for the first time in nearly a year in March as the Easter holiday hit food sales because many supermarkets were closed on Easter Sunday.

The BRC's figures are not seasonally adjusted.

Food sales over the last three months fell by 0.7 per cent, their biggest decline since June of last year.

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But at the same time the holiday provided a boost to sales of furniture. Shoppers typically splash out on big-ticket items in the days after Easter.

BRC chief executive officer Helen Dickinson said the numbers were "relatively disappointing".

They also suggested that consumers were spending more money online rather than at shops and on leisure and entertainment which do not feature in the retail sales numbers, she said.

On a like-for-like basis, stripping out changes in the amount of retail space open to shoppers over the past 12 months, sales fell by 0.7 per cent in March, their worst performance since August of last year.

British households have been the main engine of the country's economic recovery which began in 2013, helped by near-zero inflation, falling unemployment and gradually rising pay.

However, consumer confidence has weakened recently, possibly reflecting concerns about the global economy and Britain's referendum on its membership of the European Union which is due to take place on June 23.

Separate figures from credit and debit card firm Barclaycard published on Tuesday showed spending grew at its weakest pace in two years in March and the number of people feeling confident about the economy was its lowest since Barclaycard started collecting data in the third quarter of 2014.

"The continuing impact of global economic headwinds and an uncertain outlook really caught up with consumer spending in March," Paul Lockstone, managing director at Barclaycard, said.

REUTERS

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