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UK retail sales growth picks up unexpectedly in January

February 9, 2016

LONDON - British retail spending growth hit a four-month high in January, as consumers splashed out on big-ticket items like furniture, an industry body said on Tuesday.The British Retail Consortium said retail spending increased 3.3 percent in January compared with a year ago, up from a 1.0 percent rise in December which the BRC had described as disappointing.Furniture and home appliances sold well, while discounts in the New Year sales encouraged clothing and footwear sales.Overall the survey added to signs that Britons are still spending freely, despite a darker global economic outlook.Following on from a somewhat disappointing Christmas period for retailers, the new year kicked off to a strong start, Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said.The BRC's measure of retail spending on a like-for-like basis, which strips out changes in floorspace and is preferred by some equity analysts, rose 2.6 percent year-on-year in January after a 0.1 percent increase in December. Economists had on average forecast a 0.45 percent rise in a Reuters poll.Official data for last month -- which covers a broader range of stores than the BRC -- showed retail spending fell by 1.0 percent in December, the first annual drop in the value of retail sales since May 2009. -Reuters

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