UK shoppers, like British businesses, need more reassurance from the chancellor

Frightening retail sales figures mean the Treasury must instil more confidence in struggling firms and consumers

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.

The Office for Budget Responsibility is the government’s independent forecaster, which gives its verdict on the outlook for growth and the public finances twice a year.

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