Retail figures pick up as shoppers spend before price rises

Retailers are set for a strong end to the year as shoppers from overseas seek out bargains and Brits snap up big electrical goods and furniture before expected price rises next year.

Despite fears of a Brexit slowdown, retail sales growth picked up in the final quarter of the year, according to the latest Bank of England report on business conditions.

A monthly survey by the Bank’s network of regional agents found households were thought to be bringing forward purchases of larger items.

Retailers have said prices are likely to rise because of the 15% fall in the value of the pound against the dollar since the EU referendum.

Caroline Gulliver, an analyst at Jefferies, said: “We believe Christmas trading for 2016 could be surprisingly robust compared to performances [so far this year] as a combination of weak comps [comparative figures], high disposable income and modestly helpful weather persuade consumers to spend. However, we do feel this will be a last hurrah ahead of a tougher 2017 as inflation accelerates.”

A monthly poll by market researchers GfK found that consumer confidence edged up in December, although it remains well below the levels seen before the vote to leave the EU.

The barometer’s main measure of consumer mood stood at -7 this month, up from -8 in November. People were marginally more upbeat about the prospects for their personal financial situation over the coming 12 months and they were more confident that now was a good time to make big purchases such as furniture.

But three other measures examined by GfK deteriorated: personal financial situation over the past 12 months, state of the economy over the past year and outlook for the economy over the coming 12 months.

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