UK retail sales make sharp December drop but fourth quarter still strong

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Retail sales in the UK fell much more than initially predicted in December, data has shown.

A report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that retail sales dropped 1.9% in December from the previous month, far more than the 0.1% decrease experts predicted.

Even though this was the biggest drop since April 2012 retailers enjoyed strong spending in the fourth quarter as a whole.

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Year-on-year, last month’s retail sales increased 4.3% and the weak December figures contrast with many trading reports from jewellery retailers who mostly reported a strong Christmas season.

ONS senior statistician, Kate Davies, said: “Retailers saw a strong end to 2016 with sales in the final quarter up 5.6% on the same period last year, although the amount bought fell between November and December once the effects of Christmas are removed.”

A Reuters poll of economists published earlier this week suggested Britain’s economy is likely to grow around 1.2 percent this year – around half the rate of 2016 – although a recession is not on the cards.

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