UK consumers unexpectedly kept up spending last month as retail sales beat economists’ forecasts. The volume of goods sold in stores and online was unchanged following three consecutive months of gains, the Office for National Statistics said Friday. Sales were boosted by warm weather and a record three-month growth rate for online purchases. Gains in non-store retailing climbed 9.4% in the quarter through April, led by clothing.
Record employment and rising real incomes are helping to underpin consumer spending, the largest part of the economy, in the face of the crisis over Britain’s departure from the European Union. Sales were up 5.2% from a year earlier, also beating forecasts. The retail figures contrast with the problems flagged by many well-known companies on the British high street. Thomas Cook Group, which invented the package holiday in Victorian England, saw its shares plummet to their lowest in more than seven years on Monday.
On Tuesday, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s U.K. restaurant business slid into insolvency. Sales at department stores and household goods stores declined in the quarter through April. Textile, clothing and footwear shores saw sales rise 2.2%, and other stores had a 3% gain.