UK retail sales in sharp fall in September, ONS says

It meant that third-quarter retail growth slowed to a year-on-year rate of 1.5%, its lowest since the second quarter of 2013.

The figures come at the Bank of England contemplates its first interest rate rise in a decade.

Sterling fell as traders bet the data made imminent rate rise less likely.

Despite September’s sales fall, Kate Davies, ONS statistician, said: “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.”

The ONS said retail prices continued to rise across all store types and were up 3.3% from a year earlier, the highest year-on-year increase since March 2012.

The biggest downward pressure on sales volume and value in September was in non-food stores. Food stores also reported falls in both measures, but to a lesser degree than non-food outlets, 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, he said September’s fall, following strong sales in August, was “worse than predicted”.

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