LONDON, United Kingdom — UK retail sales fell in May for a second month running, adding to evidence that the economy is losing momentum.
The volume of goods sold in stores and online declined 0.5 percent following a 0.1 percent drop in April, the Office for National Statistics said Thursday. Sales excluding auto fuel fell 0.3 percent.
The figures may raise concern that consumers are starting to tighten their belts after driving the economy last year, in contrast to businesses, which cut back on investment amid Brexit uncertainty.
Consumer spending and Brexit stockpiling lifted growth in the early months of 2019 but a slowdown appears to be under way, giving the Bank of England further reason to refrain from raising interest rates. Officials are due to announce their latest policy decision at noon.
Retail sales will need to surge by 3.1 percent in June if the increase in the second quarter is to match to 1.6 percent posted in the first.
May saw food sales decline by 0.1 percent. Non-food sales dropped 0.5 percent, with department stores extending their losing run and clothing and footwear sales falling 4.5 percent — the most since July 2015 — because of unseasonably cold weather.
Sales rose just 2.3 percent when compared with May 2018, a month that saw unusually warm weather and the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The value of sales increased 2.7 percent, the least since June 2016, but department stores posted a 2.4 percent decline — the most since early 2009 when Britain was in the grip of the financial crisis.
By Lucy Meakin; editors: Fergal O'Brien, Andrew Atkinson.