UK economy: Shoppers dampen spending in sign of slowdown

14 November 2019, 11:19 | Updated: 14 November 2019, 12:15

Shoppers have cut back on their spending in a further sign of the economy slowing, official figures show.

Retail sales rose at their slowest rate in a year-and-a-half in the three months to October, according to the Office for National Statistics.

And the amount of items bought last month actually fell, down by 0.1%, when compared with September.

When compared with October last year, sales were up by 3.1%, weaker than the 3.7% forecast by economists.

The downbeat data comes after the UK dodged a recession despite seeing the biggest year-on-year slowdown in nearly a decade.

Taking the three months to October, the ONS said retail sales grew by 0.2% when compared with the previous period, the weakest growth since April 2018.

An ONS spokesman said: "All main sectors saw falling sales apart from food shops.

"Department store sales rebounded in October, driven by promotional events and an earlier introduction of Christmas lines.

"However, their sales still remain significantly down over the longer term."

Lynda Petherick, head of retail at management consultants Accenture, said: "These latest ONS figures are symptomatic of the challenges facing the retail sector after a year fraught with uncertainty."

With firms holding back on investment because of Brexit jitters, consumer spending has helped keep the economy afloat, helped by weaker inflation and stronger wage growth.

But the retail sales data signals shoppers are becoming more cautious as the political turmoil continues in the run-up to a pre-Christmas election.