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Retail sales slip in cold weather

Retail sales fell in the first quarter of 2018, as cold weather deterred shoppers.

The Office for National Statistics has reported that sales fell 0.5% compared with the fourth quarter of 2017, although department stores were singled out as a bright spot thanks to strong internet sales over Mother’s Day and Easter Sunday.

The overall month-on-month growth rate for March fell by 1.2% as a result of a 7.4% drop in petrol sales – another consequence of the “Beast from the East” weather front that brought freezing conditions in February and March. Online sales accounted for 17.4% of all retailing.

Rhian Murphy, Office for National Statistics senior statistician, said: “Retail sales fell in the first quarter due to a large decline in March with petrol sales seeing a significant slump as a result of the poor weather keeping many shoppers indoors. However, the snow actually helped boost online spending with department stores in particular seeing growth in their web sales.

“Various shops also reported increased spending on gifts in the run-up to Easter and Mother’s Day, which also helped boost online sales.”

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