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UK retail sales slide in March

 

British retail sales slid far faster than expected in March, according to official data Friday that point to weaker growth as the country starts to negotiate its EU exit.

Sales dropped by 1.8 percent in March from February, when they had risen by an upwardly-revised 1.7 percent, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement.

Analysts' consensus forecast had been for a drop of 0.5 percent last month.

"Today's retail sales figures show a decline on the month and on the three months to March," senior ONS statistician Kate Davies said in the statement.

"This is the first time we've seen a quarterly decline since 2013, and it seems to be a consequence of price increases across a whole range of sectors."

Analysts said British consumers are starting to tighten their belts as weakness for the pound lifts import costs and consequently inflation.

"Consumers appear to be increasingly feeling the adverse effects of sterling's fall," said economist Ruth Gregory at research group Capital Economics.

"March's drop in UK retail sales suggests that the consumer spending slowdown is gathering pace and adds to other evidence indicating that the economic recovery has slowed since the end of last year," she added in a note to clients.

The pound has largely slumped since Britain voted in June for Brexit but enjoyed strong gains this week after Prime Minister Theresa May called for a snap general election.