Colder weather helps UK retail sales growth to 14-year high: ONS

British retail sales surged in October, as colder weather boosted clothing sales and supermarkets cashed in from Halloween, lifting annual sales growth to its highest in more than 14 years.

Thursday's official data reinforce the robust picture of health given by British consumers since June's vote to leave the European Union, even if the one-off factors lifting demand last month are unlikely to be sustained.


Shoppers make their way down Oxford Street
Dan Kitwood | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Shoppers make their way down Oxford Street

Longer term, the Bank of England and many other economists are concerned that rising prices will reduce households' disposable income, and Thursday's figures also showed store prices falling at the slowest pace since July 2014.

Retail sales volumes jumped by 1.9 percent on the month in October after edging up 0.1 percent in September, the Office for National Statistics said, almost double the highest forecast in a Reuters poll of economists.

Compared with a year earlier, sales volumes were up 7.4 percent last month versus forecasts for a 5.3 percent rise and 4.2 percent growth recorded in September, the biggest annual rise since April 2002.

"Cooler temperatures in October boosted clothing sales as shoppers took their cue to purchase winter clothing, while the supermarkets benefited from Halloween," ONS statistician Kate Davies said.

Retail sales are often volatile on a monthly basis, and clothing is particularly sensitive to the weather. But even looking at the three months to October as a whole, sales were 5.9 percent higher than a year earlier, the biggest rise since June 2002.

Clothing sales gained 5.1 percent on the month - their biggest rise since March 2014, while internet sales were more than a quarter higher than in October 2015.

However, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney warned this week that prices faced by British consumers will soon rise as stores start to pass on the near 20 percent fall in sterling since the referendum, eating into spending growth.

A survey of households on Wednesday showed the greatest concern about price rises in nearly two and a half years.

Strong retail sales growth is not expected to outweigh weakness in the rest of the economy.

Britain's economy expanded by 0.5 percent in the third quarter, but the Bank of England expects this to slow next year.