UK retail sales growth accelerated more than expected in April driven by the easing of coronavirus restrictions, data published by the Office for National Statistics showed on Friday.

Retail sales expanded 9.2 percent month-on-month, faster than the 5.1 percent increase in March and the economists’ forecast of +4.5 percent. Moreover, this was the biggest increase since June 2020, when sales were up 13.9 percent.

Sales volume, excluding auto fuel, advanced 9 percent after March’s 4.6 percent. This was also bigger than the expected growth of 4.2 percent.

Non-food stores provided the largest contribution to the monthly growth, aided by strong increases of 69.4 percent and 25.3 percent in clothing stores and other non-food stores respectively. Meanwhile, food stores sales dropped 0.9 percent in April.

On a yearly basis, retail sales volume grew sharply by 42.4 percent, after rising 7.2 percent in March. Economists had forecast an annual increase of 36.8 percent.

Excluding auto fuel, retail sales growth accelerated to 37.7 percent in April from 7.9 percent in the previous month. Sales were forecast to climb 31.7 percent.

All retail sectors reported a fall in their proportions of online sales as physical stores re-opened during the month.

Online spending decreased 5.6 percent on month in April, with a large decline in food stores of 11.4 percent.

In the three months to April, the volume of sales increased by 2.6 percent compared with the previous three months. Excluding auto fuel, sales gained 2 percent.

Earlier in the day, survey results from the market research group GfK showed that confidence among consumers bounced back to its pre-lockdown level in May. The consumer sentiment index rose six points to -9 in May.

Growing confidence is fuelling the economy and only a reversal to lockdown can dampen this solid momentum, Joe Staton, client strategy director at GfK, said.

Paul Dales, an economist at Capital Economics, said overall economic recovery will continue in May.

Overall, the data support the view that the recovery will be fast and full. Even so, the economist doubt the Bank of England will move to snuff it out until 2024.

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