Strong retail sales help boost economy

Retail sales increased on a yearly basis, providing a boost to the UK economy, according to the latest figures.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that retail sales in December increased 4.3 per cent, compared with the same month in 2015.

However, when compared with November 2016, sales fell by 1.9 per cent.

The largest contribution for the month-on-month fall came from non-food retailers. Despite this, the overall trend is one of growth, with a 1.2 per cent increase over a quarter-on-quarter average.

Average store prices increased by 0.9 per cent, and overall retailing prices – excluding fuel – increased by 0.1 per cent, which was the first increase since June 2014.

Online sales continued to dominate, with a 21.3 per cent year-on-year increase, but fell on the month by 5.3 per cent, with online accounting for around 15 per cent of all retail spending.

The ONS also reported that the UK economy grew by 0.6 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016, which was the same rate of growth as the previous two quarters.

Q4 growth was dominated by services, with strong contributions from consumer-focused industries such as retail and travel agencies.

UK Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased by an estimated two per cent in 2016, a slowdown from the 2.2 per cent in 2015 and the 3.1 per cent in 2014.

Per head, GDP was estimated to have increased by 0.4 per cent in Q4 and 1.3 per cent for the full year.

ONS senior statistician Kate Davies said: “Retailers saw a strong end to 2016 with sales in the final quarter up 5.6 per cent on the same period last year, although the amount bought fell between November and December, once the effects of Christmas are removed. There were some notably strong figures from smaller retailers.”