UK retail sales tumble in December as Omicron cases rage – Update
By Will Horner
UK retail sales fell in December, sharply missing analysts’ forecasts, as the country witnessed a rise in Covid-19 cases and tightened social distancing guidelines.
Retail sales volume fell 3.7% from the previous month, the Office for National Statistics said on Friday. Economists polled by The Wall Street Journal had forecast a more modest decline of 0.6%.
Compared to the same month a year earlier, retail sales fell 0.9%. Economists had forecast an increase of 3.4% over one year.
In December, Covid-19 cases in the UK rose rapidly, linked to the more transmissible Omicron variant. The UK government has tightened its guidelines on mask-wearing and working from home.
“The emergence of Omicron has dealt a devastating blow to the high street as shoppers have limited social contact to ensure a Covid-free Christmas,” said Richard Lim, chief executive of UK research consultancy Retail Economics.
“Sales volumes fell sharply in all major categories, undermined by lackluster footfall and demand that was delayed in November amid availability concerns,” Mr Lim said.
The ONS also revised its figures for November retail sales to 1% from 1.4%.
Excluding the fuel contribution, retail sales in December were down 3.6% on the month and 3% year on year.
Write to Will Horner at [email protected]