Retail sales figures for January will give the Treasury a fright. A fall of 8% was much larger than the more modest 3% expected by City economists and reveals how shoppers, when confronted by a third lockdown, were reluctant to keep calm and carry on. There was a faint hope that after a disastrous Christmas period, and a year that ranked as the worst for consumer spending on record, we might see retailers start 2021 with a fresh set of wings. It was not to be. While the slump in spending was not as great as during the first lockdown, any hopes of a milder drop in sales were snuffed out by the closure of all non-essential shops and the daily reports of rising infection levels and cases of Covid-19 cases that made it clear the lockdown would last for several months. Another factor preying on the minds of consumers was government resistance to upgrading its financial support package. Calls to extend the...read more...