Wednesday, 22 May, 2019

March's milder weather gives United Kingdom retail sales a much-needed boost

The unemployment rate remained at 3.9 per cent the lowest level since 1975. ─ Reuters  File The unemployment rate remained at 3.9 per cent the lowest level since 1975. ─ Reuters File
Ginger Lawrence | 18 April, 2019, 15:01

However, the comparison was skewed because retail sales had plunged in March 2018 on the back of freezing weather during the so-called "Beast from the East" cold wave.

British house prices rose at the weakest rate in six-and-a-half years in February, dragged down by London's biggest price slump in a decade as Brexit uncertainty sent chills through the property market.

Retail sales in March were up by an estimated 6.7% compared with the same period previous year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

While London house prices are falling over the year, the area remains the most expensive place in the United Kingdom to purchase a property at an average of £460,000, followed by the South East and the east of England, at £316,000 and £290,000 respectively.

Ben Brettell, senior economist at Hargreaves Lansdow, said: "All the key United Kingdom inflation measures came in slightly lower than economists expected in March, highlighting the absence of inflationary pressures in the domestic economy". Diesel rose 1.4p per litre to 130.7p.

Recording media, which includes CDs and DVDs, also weighed on recreation and culture.

The average house price in Britain was 226,000 pounds ( about 294,794 US dollars) in February, 1,000 pounds higher than the same period a year earlier.

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"Influencing this movement were higher prices for vegetables such as sweet pepper, cabbage and carrot which resulted in the index for the class "Vegetables and Starchy Foods" moving up by 3.0 per cent", the Institute said.

"Food stores was the largest contributor towards the increase for the amount spent at 0.5 percentage points".

The produce price index rate was negative 0.2%, below expectations of positive 0.3%.

Year-on-year rise in March of 6.7% was highest since October 2016, says ONS.

Department stores have been hit particularly hard by fierce competition from online-specific retailers, that do not have such high costs.

Yael Selfin, chief economist at KPMG, said: "The figures will offer some comfort for businesses anxious about the extra costs associated with the departure from the European Union, as well as the prospects of rising costs of capital".