According to an industry survey by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), British retail sales are at their strongest ever since April 2011, with the total amount spent in stores 5.4% higher than a year ago.
The figures have been helped in part by the recovery of the property market with the number of mortgage approvals rising to its highest level since January 2008. Strong consumer demand has helped too, even though price inflation is rising faster than wages.
The BRC found that there has a been strong performance for furniture and other non-food items, with the fastest annual sales growth since 2006. Weather has also played a part in affecting what we buy, as there has been a lack of snow this year which has encouraged more people to go shopping.
In January 2013 the snow prompted consumers to bulk buy food meaning that this year the food sector performed the poorest, with an annual growth of just 0.8%, the lowest ever recorded.
On a like-for-like basis sales in all sectors rose by 3.9% on the year, outstripping economists’ forecasts of 0.8% growth. It’s the highest since April 2011, when sales were boosted by the timing of Easter. Excluding this, sales growth has been the highest since March 2010.
The strong growth was good news for retailers, after weak Christmas sales. Sales in the lead up to this January were only slightly above average at 3.2%.