Retail sales slow sharply, with food and petrol sales down.
UK retail sales plunged by a far-greater-than-expected 1.4% between February and March, with supermarket sales accounting for much of the decline. Food store sales declined by 1.1%, the fifth straight drop, representing the longest consecutive fall since records began in 1988. That takes supermarket sales 1.4% below the level of February 2020. Total sales are up 2.2% from the pre-pandemic levels.
Despite the rise in prices over the previous month, retail sales by value declined by 0.3% over February. Overall petrol sales by volume plunged by 3.8%, with statisticians citing evidence of a decline in non-essential travel, due to the rise in petrol prices to record-high levels. That leaves petrol sales below pre-pandemic levels. Underlining the rising cost of fuel, the same sales by value rose 2.9% m/m.
Retail sales fell by 1.0% over the first quarter, which leaves the sector poised to shave 0.05% from gross domestic product over the opening months of the year.