In January, retail sales in the UK grew surprisingly

Woman examining a sale sign in the shop window

Following a decline in December, UK retail sales volumes unexpectedly increased by 0.5% in January, according to official data.

However, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), sales volumes decreased by 51% from January of last year.

Since last year, prices have been sharply increasing, primarily as a result of skyrocketing energy costs, which have put pressure on millions of households.

Even though the rate of inflation is beginning to decline, at 10%, it is still very close to a 40-year high.

January sales promotions helped online stores grow, according to the ONS.

However, sales of food stores declined as consumers made fewer purchases as a result of rising living expenses and high food costs.

Retail sales volumes overall are still below pre-pandemic levels.

The ONS added that because of consumer spending cuts, the decline in retail sales in December was greater than initially anticipated.

Retail sales slightly increased in January after a sharp decline in December, but the general trend toward decline persisted, according to Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS.

Fuel sales increased as pump prices continued to decline, while online retailers, jewelers, cosmetic shops, and carpet and furniture stores all saw increases in sales thanks to discounts, according to Mr. Morgan.

However, he continued, "clothing store sales fell back sharply after four consecutive months of growth.".

"Food store sales fell once more, and consumers reported choosing lower-priced goods as the impact of rising living expenses and food prices persisted. ".

Retail analysts claimed that January's figures demonstrated that consumers had been eager to take advantage of sales following the holiday season.

It makes sense to wait for the sales you know are coming when your money isn't going as far, according to AJ Bell's Danni Hewson.

Many families have chosen to reduce the number of gifts they give each other for Christmas, and there will also be many people who decided to give cash in the hope that their children or other family members would use it to buy the things they really wanted at a price that looked much nicer. ".

Ms. Hewson cautioned that despite the increase in sales, selling items at a discount does little to increase margins, so retailers will likely have "mixed emotions" about the figures.

After the seasonal discounts end, Lisa Hooker from PwC added that it was "hard to see" how the retail sector could maintain its strong momentum.

As inflation sets in and incomes struggle to keep up, she said, December "really looks to have been a last hurrah for consumers.".

"Retailers' success in the coming year will depend on how well they fare over the next six months.

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