Retail sales drop halts recent spell of strong growth
UK retail sales dropped sharply in September despite an underlying trend of steady growth in the face of rising prices, figures show.
There was an unexpectedly sharp fall of 0.8% last month, reversing a surge in August, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The quantity bought in the UK's retail sector rose 1.2% in September from the same month in 2016, down from 2.3% growth in the year to August and well below the expected 2.3%, ONS data showed.
However, the ONS said the underlying retail pattern was one of growth, with the three-month measure showing sales were up 0.6%.
Monthly figures showed sales fell 0.8%, with non-food stores having the most impact on the drop.
ONS senior statistician Kate Davies said: "September's retail sales saw a monthly decline of 0.8%, reversing August's growth.
"However, there is a continuation of the underlying trend of steady growth in sales volumes following a weak start to the year, and a background of generally rising prices.
"These increased costs are reflected in the more rapid growth in the amount spent when compared with the quantity bought."
Store prices continue to rise across all store types and are at their highest year-on-year price growth since March 2012 at 3.3%, the ONS said.
Online sales values increased year-on-year by 14%, accounting for approximately 17% of all retail spending.
Ian Gilmartin, head of retail and wholesale at Barclays Corporate Banking, said: "It's important to avoid overstating the negatives in September's retail sales, as retailers did manage to post year-on-year growth despite the range of headwinds they are battling currently.
"However, sales were down compared to a month earlier, with the expected dip following August's strong result worse than predicted.
"Footfall struggled, in part due to a wetter-than-usual September, with continued double digit increases in online sales coming to the rescue."
The latest overall footfall figures for Northern Ireland showed it suffered a 4% slump in September - double August's rate of decline. Visits to high streets and retail parks declined most sharply at 6.1% - the worst fall anywhere in the UK, according to the report from the NI Retail Consortium and research body Springboard.