The high street spending splurge that often comes with Valentine’s Day failed to have save the overall fall in sales for the month of February.
According to the latest High Street Sales Tracker from accountancy and business advisory firm BDO, in-store sales dropped 1.6 per cent compared to a weak benchmark of a 2.2 per cent drop for the same period last year.
It is the fifth year in a row that retailers have seen sales slide in February, with the decline reflecting the “extent of the challenges” facing the retail sector, BDO said.
The figures are also compounded by the collapse of two major retailers, Toys R Us UK and Maplin, both of which filed for administration on the last day of the month.
Meanwhile, all three sector measures – lifestyle, fashion and homewares – saw drops of 0.6 per cent, 1.9 per cent and 4.2 per cent respectively.
This has been attributed to an ongoing slowdown in discretionary spending compared with healthy sales for essentials such as groceries.
For the week of Valentine’s Day, consumer spending failed to warm the hearts of retailers as high street sales declined 1.07 per cent.
Meanwhile, with snow battering much of the UK, sales in the final week of the month dropped by 2.42 per cent.
“With wage growth still running behind inflation, discretionary spend is on the slide. At the same time, the shift of spend to experiences from material goods is adding to the challenges faced by retailers,” BDO head of retail Sophie Michael said.
“Despite tough trading conditions, retailers must continue to invest in adapting their business models to the new world of consumerism, where the customer experience is becoming ever more attractive to the consumer purse.
“Turning to the month ahead, the snow storms will have resulted in impossible trading conditions for physical shopping.
“Retailers will be focused on the product offering for Mother’s Day and Easter to bring some relief to what has been a torrid start of retail trading in 2018.”