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Thursday, 17 May, 2001, 09:37 GMT 10:37 UK
UK retail sales at 14-month high
shoppers on high street
Shoppers crowded back to the High Streets in April
Retail sales in Britain were the highest they have been for more than a year in April, as consumers flocked back to the High Street, shrugging off talk of an economic slowdown.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said sales rose by 0.6% in April - or 5.9% on the year, the strongest annual figure since January 2000.

The figures surprised analysts who had predicted 0.3% growth on the month and 5.3% on the year.

But many still expect that the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee could cut interest rates at their next meeting.

"A rate cut is still odds on for July," said Jeremy Hawkins of the Bank of America.

"April retail sales are still strong enough to at least raise a few doubts but are unlikely to affect the scenario."

There was especially strong performance in the area of non-food sales, which overall saw a 1.2% increase.

Sales of textiles, clothing and footwear were up considerably, seeing a healthy 2.2% rise, an increase of more than 11% on the year.

This was helped by price-cutting in the sector.

Last month saw retail sales stagnate because of a strong rise in food prices, particularly fruit, vegetables and meat, as the sector continued to be hit by the foot-and-mouth crisis.

Inflation down

ONS also revealed that a key measure of inflation, the so-called 'retail sales deflator', showed that it had slipped back - to 0.4%, from 1% the month before.

The Bank of England has already said that UK inflation, currently at 2%, is set to remain below the government's 2.5% target next year.

Last week the Bank announced its third rate cut this year, by a quarter point to 5.25%.

The move had been widely expected.

See also:

16 May 01 | Business
10 May 01 | Business
20 Apr 01 | Business
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