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Retail sales drop slightly in August

Published 15/09/2016

Retail sales volumes dipped 0.2% on July
Retail sales volumes dipped 0.2% on July

Shoppers appear to have largely shrugged off the Brexit vote as retail sales suffered only a slight dip in August after a bumper July, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggest.

Retail sales volumes dipped 0.2% on July, which had seen a jump of 1.9% in the strongest performance for the month in 14 years.

ONS head of retail sales Mel Richard said: " Despite a small fall after July's sharp increase, the underlying pattern in the retail sector remains one of solid growth.

"There was some variation between different sectors but overall the figures do not suggest any major fall in post-referendum consumer confidence."

Sales volumes in August were up 6.2% on the same time last year.

The amount spent in the retail industry increased by 4.1% compared with August last year and decreased by 0.5% compared with last month.

The amount spent online increased by 18.5% compared with this time last year and by 0.4% compared with last month.

Non-seasonally adjusted average store prices, including petrol stations, fell by 1.9% on last year.

Ben Brettell, senior economist at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: " Retail sales held up well in August following a strong July - yet another piece of evidence which shows the economy has fared better than expected since June's referendum.

"Furthermore July's figure was revised upwards to 1.9%, marking the strongest July in 14 years. Sales fell just 0.2% between July and August, a much smaller drop than the expected 0.5%. Year-on-year growth came in at 6.2%, again beating expectations of 5.3%.

"The vote to leave the EU appears to have had little to no effect on consumers' willingness to spend, and the underlying trend in UK retail sales remains one of robust growth."

Ian Gilmartin, head of retail and wholesale at Barclays, said: " The retail industry has again posted a robust set of results, beating expectations in August with more solid year-on-year growth and only a small monthly dip following July's bumper figures.

"Despite the slightly softer numbers compared with July, I think it's too early to say with any certainty that the Brexit vote is taking hold and we should avoid leaping to conclusions based on one month's statistics.

"Spending patterns are changing, so increasingly we need to take a longer-term view to assess the true state of the industry.

"Businesses will now have to keep their guard up and make sure that they are able to adapt to fluctuations in consumer demand as we approach the crucial pre-Christmas season."

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