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25 April 2014

Consumer spending continues to drive recovery, says ONS

Retail sales edged up in March compared with the previous month, according to data issued today from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Sales volumes across the UK eased up 0.1% between February and March, with March sales up 4.2% on March 2013, ONS said.

Their report says that non-food stores delivered a 9.6% year-on-year increase, the largest since April 2002.

Commenting on today’s figures, Dr Esmond Birnie, PwC chief economist in Northern Ireland, said:

"Retail sales volumes edged up only slightly between February and March, but these monthly data are always volatile.

“A better indication of the positive underlying trend is that retail sales volumes in the first quarter of 2014 were up by 3.8% on the same period in 2013 and by 0.8% on the last three months in 2013.

“Retail sales volumes are now more than 4% higher than their pre-recession peak, with most of this growth having come over the past year.

“By contrast, real GDP is still slightly below its pre-recession peak, although catching up fast, a further indication that retail sales have been at the leading edge of the economic recovery.

“There has been some mild deflation in the retail sector, with average prices in Q1 2014 down 0.1% year-on-year, with strong competition, driven by rising online sales and canny consumers, helping to keep prices down.

“With average earnings growing by 1.7% over the past year, the real retail spending power of households has been picking up, which is important for the longer term sustainability of the consumer recovery.

“However, we should remember that the downturn has taken a heavy toll in retail activity and employment in Northern Ireland; employment has continued to fall with retail job numbers at December 2013 still 110 lower  than two years earlier in December 2011”

Ends.

Contact details

Email: Esmond Birnie

Tel: +44 (0)28 9041 5808