UK retail sales drop as more consumers eat out: Data

LONDON (AFP) – British retail sales fell last month as the grocery sector was hit by people returning to restaurants after virus curbs were lifted, data showed yesterday.

Sales by volume slid 0.9 per cent in August from the prior month, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement, after a 2.8-per cent drop in July. Food store sales suffered from the recovering hospitality industry, which was shuttered by lockdowns during much of the pandemic but re-opened earlier this year.

“Sales fell again in August, though not nearly by as much as July and, overall, remained above their pre-pandemic level,” said ONS statistician Jonathan Athow.

“Other data suggest that the drop in food stores’ sales is linked to an increase in eating out following the lifting of coronavirus restrictions.” Motor fuel sales rose on the month as people ventured out more after the economy fully re-opened in July.

Overall retail sales are 4.6 per cent higher than before the start of the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

However, Britain’s economic recovery is flattening as a result of the stubborn pandemic, supply chain bottlenecks and the elevated cost of commodities.

The economy grew at just 0.1 per cent in July compared with one per cent in June.

Annual inflation meanwhile spiked in August to a nine-year peak of 3.2 per cent, data showed this week.

“The decline in retail sales volumes in August suggests that the stalling in the economic recovery in July continued into August,” noted economist Paul Dales at research consultancy Capital Economics.

People walk by a McDonald’s restaurant in London. PHOTO: AP