Retail sales see unexpected boost in February


Retail sales saw an unexpected spike in February as shoppers returned to the high street after a difficult Christmas period for the sector.

According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), retail sales volumes rose 1.5 per cent during the month compared to a year earlier, coming in ahead of the predicted 1.3 per cent rise.

Sales also rose 0.8 per cent when compared to January, but on a three-month basis sales dropped 1.4 per cent due to a dismal December dragging down figures.

Values also jumped 3.9 per cent compared to a year before and 0.8 per cent compared to January, despite inflation slowing.

Food stores were once again the largest contributor to growth in amount spent, rising 0.6 per cent, while non-food were the only main sector to see a drop, down 0.3 per cent on January.

“Retail sales did grow in February, with increases seen in food, non-store and fuel, but this followed two months of decline in these sectors,” ONS senior statistician Rhian Murphy said.

“Store prices continue to rise across all store types, but at a lower rate than the previous month due to a slowdown in price growth, though clothing and household goods stores continued to see stronger price rises.”

BRC’s head of insights and analytics Rachel Lund added: “February’s retail sales figures showed that consumers are still feeling the grip of inflation on their spending power. Growth in values and volumes on last year remained weak, compared to recent historical standards.

“Consumers are being careful with their spending, but are not shy of splashing out when the offer is right. February saw furniture sales do well as shoppers took advantage of credit facilities and Valentine’s day inspired sales of jewellery and watches.

“That said, the market remains tough for retailers; even with the first glimmers of a return to real wage growth for UK workers this week growth in spending is likely to remain sluggish throughout the coming year.”

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