UK Retail Sales Fall in Sept Despite Panic Buying of Fuel

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LONDON—British retail income unexpectedly fell for a 5th period successful a enactment past month, contempt a unreserved of motorists filling their cars with fuel, adding to signs that Britain’s economical betterment is losing momentum.

Sales volumes dropped by 0.2 percent successful September, authoritative figures showed connected Friday, arsenic supply-chain problems led to gaps connected store shelves. It marked the longest tally of consecutive monthly falls since the bid began successful 1996 and bucked economists’ expectations successful a Reuters canvass for a emergence of 0.5 percent.

This softness adds to the conundrum faced by the Bank of England implicit whether to antagonistic rapidly rising ostentation by raising involvement rates adjacent month, oregon alternatively to hold for the system to retrieve much of the crushed it mislaid to the pandemic.

“Overall, the information enactment our presumption that the economical betterment stalled successful September,” said Bethany Beckett, UK economist astatine Capital Economics.

Retail income rebounded powerfully successful the archetypal portion of the twelvemonth arsenic lockdown restrictions eased archetypal for shops. But they person fallen steadily since a highest successful April, partially arsenic radical spent much connected holidays and eating retired aft social-distancing restrictions were relaxed much generally.

In the 3 months to September income fell 3.9 percent, which the Office for National Statistics said would trim broader economical maturation successful the 3rd 4th by 0.2 percent points.

Compared with earlier the pandemic, income volumes are 4.2 percent higher, but they are 1.3 percent beneath wherever they were a twelvemonth ago.

Empty Shelves

Supply-chain bottlenecks led to gaps connected immoderate supermarket shelves, and galore petrol stations ran retired of substance successful precocious September and aboriginal October arsenic shortages of tanker drivers led to queues of cars trying to capable up.

“Labor shortages crossed the proviso chains, connected farms, factories, warehouses and lorry drivers, each endanger to derail this recovery,” the British Retail Consortium’s main executive, Helen Dickinson, warned aft the data.

Petrol income successful September exceeded pre-pandemic levels for the archetypal time, but determination was a crisp driblet successful income of household goods specified arsenic furnishings and lighting, the ONS said.

Consumer terms ostentation is besides accelerating sharply, owed mostly to higher vigor prices, and the BoE predicts it volition transcend 4 percent astir the extremity of this year, treble its people level.

A narrower measurement of ostentation utilized successful the retail income information roseate to 3.7 percent successful September, its highest since December 2011.

The imaginable of higher prices—as good arsenic a much caller upsurge successful COVID-19 cases—has dampened consumers’ mood. GfK reported earlier connected Friday that its long-running sentiment survey showed the lowest morale since February, erstwhile Britain was inactive successful lockdown.

Retailers besides look a dilemma implicit however overmuch they should walk connected outgo rises to consumers. Discount concatenation Poundland and online manner retailer Boohoo some warned of little nett margins successful caller weeks.

The BRC said 3 retired of 5 retailers expected prices to emergence earlier Christmas.

Another online manner retailer, ASOS, parted ways with its main enforcement past week amid fears that proviso concatenation pressures and consumers returning to pre-pandemic behaviour would trim profits by 40 percent adjacent year.

Friday’s ONS information showed online spending remained beardown wide astatine 28 percent of full retail income successful September, up from 20 percent earlier the pandemic. But it is acold beneath its highest of 37 percent successful January erstwhile high-street shops were closed during lockdown.

By David Milliken and Andy Bruce