Surprise surge in retail sales suggests economy is growing – despite UK entering recession

Retail sales have grown significantly – far exceeding expectations – as consumer spending bounced back in January.

The 3.4% increase in retail sales is more than double the 1.5% rise forecast by analysts – and suggests the economy is recovering.

On Thursday, the UK officially entered recession after two consecutive three-month periods of contraction – and poor retail performance was partly to blame.

The January bump in retail sales more than compensates for a shock fall in the key Christmas shopping month of December, where a 3.3% fall was recorded, after the number was revised downwards by the Office for National Statistics on Friday.

Volumes in all retail sectors grew, except clothing, but the biggest contribution to the growth was supermarkets, the ONS said. As a result, volumes returned to November 2023 levels.

But sales are still below pre-pandemic levels.

Retail sales figures are of interest as household consumption, measured by the data, is the largest expenditure across the UK economy.

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Accordingly, the statistic can be indicative of overall economic growth.

Not since April 2021 has there been a rise as large as the recovery from December to January.

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