"Get Out There and Spend" says Chancellor ...
Retail sales "bounced back" after a dismal start to the year, according to the headlines in The Times today. Sales increased by 2% in February compared to prior month.
Not much of a bounce back really. Sales were down by almost 4% compared to prior year. Exclude petrol and other fuels and overall sales, were down by just 1%.
The pattern of pandemic sales repeats. DIY and garden center sales were up by over 20%. Clothing and footwear sales were down by 50%. Alcohol sales were up by over 40% in the month. Food sales were up. The proportion of food sales online, increased to 12%, from just 5% last year.
Online sales, as a proportion of all retail sales, increased to a record 36%. The damage to conventional retail continues. Just 15% of rents due, were paid on the March quarter day, this month, placing additional pressure on property owners, bankers and other lenders.
In other news, the unemployment rate fell to 5%. Earnings increased to 4.8%. The Chancellor is urging people to "get out there and spend". "Go have fun and spend money". Shops are due to re-open on the 12th April. Rishi Sunak said, people should "do their bit" by spending savings they had built up during the lock down.
The Chancellor believes there is a lot of excess savings, which could be a stimulus to growth. The Office For Budget Responsibility said last month, that households have accumulated £180 billion in accumulated savings. Spend it all, and with VAT back at 20% that's a further £30 billion for the Treasury coffers.
In an effort to to help the recovery and increase costs for retail, shops would be allowed to open until 10:00 pm in the evening, said Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary. Time then, to pop into the pub, with no curfew in place. Just carry a vaccine passport and be prepared for a blood test. Scientists in SAGE are working on a breathalyser. Yes! Soon it will be necessary to "blow into the bag" before you can get a drink ...
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