Britons Show No Let-Up in Spending

23 February 2004

British consumers showed no signs of cutting back their expenditure in January as retail sales soared above expectations.

According to the Office for National Statistics, Britons spent £17.2 billion ($32.3bn; €25.5bn) last month, a rise of 0.6% on December and well ahead of forecasts of 0.1%. The January total is also 5.6% higher than the same month last year.

Non-store retailing -- including ecommerce and mail order -- saw the biggest sales surge last month, but growth at supermarkets continued to lag the non-food sector. Sales were particularly strong for digital cameras, mobile phones, household goods and clothing.

However, the ongoing extravagance of Britain's consumers has left some analysts anxious that interest rates will have to rise.

Graeme Leach, chief economist for the Institute of Directors, warned Britons they should "get a grip. Unless spending begins to slow significantly," he cautioned, "the Bank of England will have to get a lot tougher."

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff