Stormy weather and torrential downpours dampened the spirits of Britain’s shoppers, shaving more than £356million off retail sales in July.
And the cost-of-living crisis curbed online shopping, meaning that the shrink in sales was more twice as bad as expected.
Overall retail sales dropped 1.2 percent from June’s figures, the Office for National Statistics report revealed. June saw around £35.6billion in sales, and forecasters had originally expected a slump of just 0.5 percent in July.
The drop included a 2.6 percent fall in sales at food shops while there was also a drop in clothes sales at the supermarkets.
Matt Coode, partner at OC&C Strategy Consultants, said: “The downward trend reveals that consumers shopped a little earlier for their summer wardrobes this year and are prioritising holidays and experiences instead of goods during the summer months.
“Many retailers are reacting by moving more swiftly into promotions in an effort to clear their stock ahead of the autumn/winter season, which should help sales.
“But we should not expect an Indian summer for retail trading: it is likely that another period of consumer belt tightening will soon kick-in.
“That being said, Christmas spending may well start earlier this year as shoppers look to spread their costs over a few months.”
The rough weather has continued into August, with Storm Antoni hitting several parts of England, Wales and Northern Ireland two weeks ago.
John Choong, equity and markets analyst at investing comparison platform, InvestingReviews.co.uk, said the drop in sales could be good news for inflation.
He said: “The reduction in spending on non-food items will be seen as a positive as it could lead to cooling inflation, especially on the core front.
“This could result in a lower terminal rate from the Bank of England, benefitting mortgage borrowers.”
Inflation fell for the year to July, dropping from 7.9 percent in June to 6.8 percent. Analysts are expecting inflation to increase slightly to 7.1 percent in August and then to fall again.
Commenting on the latest retail figures, Brian Flesk, head of Retail at Novuna Consumer Finance, said: “The drop in consumer spending is particularly noticeable in instore purchases.
“Our data, highlights slow decrease in consumer spending instore over the past year, however on a more positive note, online retail still appears to show resilience.
“Our data reveals that online purchases, especially in key areas such as home improvement, have steadily increased over the past year, as consumers look to improve rather than move.”
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