Data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that retail sales fell by 0.9% in March, almost offsetting a 1.1% rise in February (revised from +1.2%). Economists had expected sales to decline by only 0.5%. Total non-food stores sales volumes fell by 1.3%, following a rise of 2.4% in February. Within non-food stores, department stores and clothing stores sales volumes fell by 3.2% and 1.7% over the month. Household goods stores sales volumes rose by 0.1% in March, following a fall of 1.1% in February. Food store sales volumes fell by 0.7%, following a rise of 0.6% in February. Non-store retailing (predominantly online retailers) sales volumes fell by 0.8%, following a rise of 0.3% in February. Automotive fuel sales rose 0.2% after falling 1.2% in February.
Meanwhile, over the last three months (through March), retail sales increased by 0.6% compared to the previous three months. This is the highest rate and first rise in this series since August 2021 (1.3%).
In annual terms, sales fell by 3.1%, as expected, after a decline of 3.3% in February (revised from -3.5%).
The ONS also said that retail sales excluding automotive fuel fell by 1% on a monthly basis and by 3.2% per annum. In February, an increase of 1.4% per month and a fall of 3% per annum were recorded.