UK retail sales tumbled 0.6% from December 2012 to January 2013 because of snowy weather, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said.
Figures show that retail sales, excluding fuel, fell 0.5% – but were 0.2% higher than in January 2012.
The figures are way below expectations of economists who forecasted a 0.4% monthly increase and 1.4% annual rise.
The food sector was at its lowest level since 2004 with a 2.6% year-on-year drop because of weather disruptions. Small shops were the hardest hit, although large retailers reported an increase in sales steered by their online channels.
Online spending, excluding fuel, made up for 10.1% of all retail sales.
Commenting on the retail sales figures, published today by the ONS, John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said: “Although the bad weather in January will have had an impact on retail sales, these figures are much worse than the increase we were expecting.
“Although it must be recognised that this is only one month’s figures, it is a serious warning to government that more needs to be done to get the economy growing again, and quickly. The fortunes of our retail sector are closely aligned to the wider economy, and although businesses are still confident that they can drive growth this year, they can’t do it alone. To kick start growth, the government must help retailers to support both domestic and overseas markets.”
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