February sales figures “cause for concern” hitting 8-year low

The high street endured its most difficult February in eight years as sales descended for the third consecutive month, according to figures from accountancy firm BDO.

The company’s High Street Sales Tracker saw a like-for-like sales drop of 2.2 per cent, down even further than February 2016 which saw a decline of 1.7 per cent.

This is the fourth February in a row to post a negative growth.

Fashion continued to bear the brunt of falling sales with a 3.4 per cent decline year-on-year. Homeware also saw a drop of 1.4 per cent, its first decline since June 2016.

Storm Doris is thought to have accounted for the drop in high street spend, with figures from Ipsos earlier this week showing footfall dropping 12.5 per cent month-on-month.

READ MORE: Footfall figures “do very little to raise the spirits of retailers”

However, this does not account for the slowdown in online sales growth, which BDO suggests dropped to just 19.9 per cent.

“The Chancellor told us growth in the economy was expected to be higher, and borrowing lower, than forecast in November, but that hasn’t translated into consumer spending power,” BDO head of retail Sophie Michael said.

“February saw a perfect storm, both figuratively and literally. Doris kept shoppers away from the high street, but the relatively poor growth of online sales in February shows that the economic headwinds significantly curbed spending.

“The majority of retailers’ price hedges ran out at the end of last year, and inflationary cost pressures have forced them to increase prices, sharply in some cases.

“Whilst these cost headwinds are a cause for concern, retailers need to find ways to ride out the storm and look to opportunities relevant to their business, such as exports or international expansion.

“At the same time, the Chancellor’s decision in the Budget to spend £435 million minimising the impact of business rates will also be welcomed.”

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