Britain’s consumers started to spend more freely even before lockdown restrictions were eased, according to official figures pointing to a spring bounceback in the economy.
The Office for National Statistics said that in March – a month in which there was only a modest relaxation of the curbs imposed across the UK to stop the spread of Covid-19 – retail sales rose by 5.4%.
The increase was well above the 1.5% predicted by City economists, with sales in March 1.6% higher than they were before the pandemic began to have an impact on the economy in February 2020.
Darren Morgan, the director of economic statistics development at the ONS, said retail sales had continued their recovery after a subdued start to the year. In the first quarter of 2021, with all but essential stores closed, sales were almost 6% lower than in the final three months of 2020
“Specialist food stores, such as bakers and butchers, saw increased sales as the continued closure of hospitality saw customers buying produce for Easter festivities at home,” Morgan said.
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