The latest retail sales figures from the Office for National Statistics show a strong growth in December 2013 compared to a year earlier.
Compared to December 2012, last month saw a rise of 5.3 percent in the quantity bought, but comparing the whole of 2013 with 2012 there has only been a 1.6 percent rise in retail sales signalling a weaker overall growth.
Also, when looked at on a three monthly basis, growth is only 0.4 percent up over the previous three months.
So was December’s boost just a blip?
Commenting, Andrew Goodwin, senior economic adviser to the EY ITEM Club, said:
“This is a massive upside surprise which really stretches credibility to the maximum. The only way we can try and justify these figures is through heavy discounting or a bounce back after a couple of soft months. This may have been the result of more last-minute Christmas shopping than in previous years, or improving online services such as click and collect.
“We are extremely sceptical about the strength of the numbers; if they are not revised then the chances are there will be a large fall in January. The numbers simply do not tally with what we have been hearing from companies over the last week. In particular, department stores and food retailers who, with few exceptions, have reported weak trading during the festive period. The extreme seasonality of retail spending means that the December figures are always hit-and-miss and should be treated as such.
“Overall we do not see these figures as being representative of where the consumer is heading. The consumer has been the real hero of the recovery so far, but there have been increasing signs that the momentum is starting to wither. The rise in spending has come solely through consumers saving less but this cannot continue. And while we do expect spending power to be supported by above inflation wage rises later in the year, it is likely that we will see slightly more thrifty spending patterns over the next few months.”