Weak retail sales highlight obstacles facing UK economy

15th February 2013

·         Volume of retail sales in January 2013: -0.

6% on the month, -0.6% on the year   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.   David Kern, Chief Economist at the BCC, added:   -These figures are very disappointing, showing a monthly decline when most commentators expected an increase over the month. The bad weather in January must have had an influence, and the ONS's figures are at odds with the more positive estimates published earlier this month by other trade bodies. Longer term comparisons show that the UK economy, and within it the retail sector, remains basically flat. But the figures may adversely affect confidence, because they dampen hopes that the economy has returned to growth in the first quarter.   -It is however important to put these volatile monthly figures into perspective. The UK's performance is not out of line with many of our international competitors, as shown by the dismal eurozone figures, where GDP fell by 0.6% in Q4 2012, twice as much as the UK. Even Germany, the strongest eurozone economy, fell by the same amount in the final months of last year. We believe it is still premature to talk about a triple-dip recession, but it is clear that the economy's performance is too weak. Sustained measures are needed as a matter of urgency to support growth.

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