ICAEW chart of the week: Q4 retail sales

Chart: 2018 Q4 retail sales £121.3bn + inflation (1.4%) £1.7bn + sales growth (0.9%) £1.1bn = £124.1bn 2019 Q4 retail sales.

Concerned about the state of the UK economy? Then the latest retail sales numbers will not have helped, with fourth quarter sales in the UK mainland just 0.9% higher after inflation over a year earlier, as illustrated by the #icaewchartoftheweek.

With population growth still estimated to be running at around 0.6% a year, this implies that retail sales per capita in Q4 (at around £635 per month) were just 0.3% higher after inflation than the same period in 2018.

Sales in Q4 of £124.1bn comprised £41.3bn on food, drink and tobacco, £21.3bn on clothing and footwear, £19.6bn on household goods, £11.5bn on automotive fuel and £30.4bn on other non-food purchases. On a per capita basis, this is equivalent to approximately £210 per person per month on food, drink and tobacco, £110 on clothing and footwear, £100 on household goods, £60 on automotive fuel and £155 on other non-food purchases.

This low level of growth on a year earlier reflects a slow-down in retail activity in the fourth quarter of 2019, with the Office for National Statistics reporting that Q4 sales were 0.9% lower than the third quarter on a seasonally-adjusted basis.

This will feed into fourth quarter GDP, which will not be good news for the Chancellor as he puts together what is being rumoured to be a radical first Budget in March – a weak economy will reduce his room for manoeuvre to reform the tax system while boosting public spending at the same time.

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