Business

UK retail sales fall at fastest rate since 2008

LONDON: British retail sales plunged in August at the fastest pace since December 2008, according to a survey published yesterday that added to signs of a slowing economy ahead of Brexit in just over two months' time.

The Confederation of British Industry's gauge of retailers - or the difference between those reporting rising and falling sales volumes - slumped to -49 this month from -16 in July, the second weakest reading since records began in 1983.

That was worse than all forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists that pointed to an improvement to -11.

Until recently, consumers had largely taken Brexit in their stride, helped by wages growing at the fastest pace in more than a decade and modest inflation.

That helped to support growth at a time when many companies have been cutting back on investment because of uncertainty about Brexit, leaving the economy reliant on consumer spending.

"The very weak August CBI survey raises the possibility that consumers are becoming more concerned and cautious as the UK's Oct 31 departure date from the EU looms and expectations of a no-deal Brexit rise," said Mr Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY Item Club consultancy. - REUTERS

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