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British retail sales fell much more than expected in July as an unusually wet month discouraged shoppers from the high street, according to official statistics.
The quantity of goods bought in Great Britain fell 1.2 per cent between June and July, following expansions in the previous three months, according to data published on Friday by the Office for National Statistics.
This was a much larger drop than the 0.5 per cent contraction forecast by economists polled by Reuters.
Food stores’ sales volumes fell by 2.6 per cent in July, with supermarkets reporting that the wet weather reduced clothing sales, although food sales also fell back. Retailers indicated that the increased cost of living and food prices continued to affect sales volumes.
Non-food stores’ sales volumes fell by 1.7 per cent in July, with retailers reporting that the fall over the month was because of poor weather reducing footfall.
Sales volumes were down 3.2 per cent compared with July last year even though consumers spent 1.1 per cent more than the same month last year, reflecting the impact of high inflation on household finances.
Heather Bovill, ONS deputy director for surveys and economic indicators, said: “Retail sales fell sharply in July as poor weather impacted most sectors.”
“It was a particularly bad month for supermarkets as the summer washout combined with the increased cost of living meant sluggish sales for both clothing and food,” she said.
Department store and household goods sales also dropped significantly.
Sandra Horsfield, economist at Investec, said she expected consumers to “struggle increasingly under the burden of higher interest rates” pushing the economy into a mild recession in the second half of this year and 2024.