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UK retailers extend losing streak in August By Reuters


© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: Shoppers shop at Selfridges on Oxford Street as coronavirus (COVID-19), restrictions ease in London, Britain, April 12, 2021. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

By David Milliken and Andy Bruce

LONDON (Reuters) -British retail sales unexpectedly fell again last month in what is now a record streak of monthly declines, official data showed on Friday, adding to concerns about economic recovery although sales volumes remain well above pre-pandemic levels.

Since April’s peak, when COVID-19 shop restrictions were removed from shops, sales have been falling steadily.

The 0.9% decrease in August sales was attributed to the switch from supermarkets to restaurants. These curbs were lifted earlier in the year, according Statisticians.

Shops also complained of supply chain problems, which adds to the signs that Britain’s recovery has slowed down after the July coronavirus Delta outbreak.

Samuel Tombs of Pantheon Macroeconomics stated that August’s retail sales data show more evidence of consumers’ recovery. This should make markets question whether (Bank of England’s) MPC will really be in a position in February to raise Bank Rate.

Most economists expect that the BoE won’t tighten their policy until the second half of next year. However, markets predict that a February rate hike will be possible.

Despite the fact that sterling was barely weaker against the U.S. Dollar after these data came in, it still remained below the forecasts of an economist polled by Reuters.

According to the Office for National Statistics, sales for prior months have been revised lower. This resulted in the fourth consecutive month of declines, the longest streak since records began back in 1996.

The sales volumes remain 4.6% higher in February 2020 than they were in February 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, their levels in August 2020 are unchanged.

Supply chain bottlenecks have caused many retailers to struggle to stock their shelves due to global shortages and the lack of drivers to transport goods in Britain.

A mere 7% percent of retailers reported not being able to access all of the stock and other products and services that they required in August. The figure is comparable to those in the wider economy, with 18% reporting they could not get the goods or services they need.

The only spending category that saw a rise was footwear and clothing.

The ONS reports that retail sales declined 2.8% in August compared with July. Stores attribute the drop to bad weather, and customers choosing to see England’s victory in the Euro 2020 soccer tournament earlier in the month.

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