Higher Store Sales in the United Kingdom Surprise Economists

Category: Business


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. come as a surprise to (someone) / kʌm əz ə sərˈpraɪz tʊ / (idiom) – to cause someone to feel surprised

    The low prices of goods came as a surprise to consumers.

  2. withdrawal / wɪðˈdrɔ əl / (n) – the act of ending one’s participation in something

    The businessman announced his withdrawal from the partnership.

  3. secondhand / ˈsɛk əndˈhænd / (adj) – previously owned by someone

    He is saving money, so he buys secondhand items nowadays.

  4. uncharacteristically / ʌnˌkær ɪk təˈrɪs tɪkli / (adv) – in a way that is not usual

    This store is usually busy, but it is uncharacteristically quiet today.

  5. stick to (something) / stɪk tʊ / (phrasal) – to continue doing something and not change it

    The business’s new marketing plan works, so the company will probably stick to using it for its next products.


Read the text below.

The UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that retail shop sales in the United Kingdom unexpectedly increased by 1% from May to June.

The increase came as a surprise to economists because they forecasted a 0.3% drop from May to June. This happened after disappointing retail sales in May, which was believed to be caused by the declining confidence of consumers in the UK economy and personal finances.

Currently, the UK economy is at risk because of the uncertainty brought about by Brexit or the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. Brexit was set to happen in March but did not push through because of disagreements. If it had happened, it would have meant a rise in prices, especially of imported goods.

Contrary to what experts thought, the confidence of consumers to buy was not heavily affected by Brexit’s uncertainty. In fact, ONS official Rhian Murphy reported that, in June, consumers had a stronger demand for various items such as clothes, furniture, lighting, floor covering, paint, and glass. Charity shops, which sell items donated by the public, and antique shops, which auction off items bought from previous owners, also sold many secondhand items.

The retail sales drop in May was simply a result of the uncharacteristically cold weather, a report noted.

According to British economist Paul Dales, consumers are spending more because of the steady increase in wages. Reports also claim that the unemployment rate in the United Kingdom is also at its lowest since 1975. Another economist notes that consumers will likely stick to their spending habits and will ignore Brexit threats until it actually happens.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• If you were a UK consumer, how would you prepare yourself for Brexit when the price of imported goods rises?
• What factors do you think affect consumers’ confidence in buying things (e.g. politics, weather)? Discuss.

Discussion B

• If you were a retail store owner, how would you take advantage of consumers’ high spending? Discuss.
• What would you do if consumers suddenly changed their spending habits?