February retail sales dented by Brexit uncertainty

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ONS
// BRC reports shoppers have held off from spending during February due to fear of Brexit
// Retail sales increased 0.5% in February compared to a 1.6% increase in February 2018
// The weak results accentuate the continued decline in consumer confidence levels

Brexit fears have enforced shoppers to hold off from spending during February, as new data suggest the uncertainty has dented the UK economy during the past few months.

According to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, retail sales increased by only 0.5 per cent in February compared to a 1.6 per cent increase during the same period in 2018.

Meanwhile, Barclaycard reported that consumer spending was just 1.2 per cent higher in February than the year before.

The weak results accentuate the continued decline in consumer confidence levels.

BRC and KPMG’s sales monitor said like-for-likes across the sector decreased 0.1 per cent in the four weeks to February 23, compared to the 0.6 per cent uptick during the same period in 2018.

Total sales increased 0.5 per cent, but that marked a slowdown on the three-month and 12-month averages of 0.9 per cent and 1.2 per cent respectively.

Meanwhile, in-store sales of non-food items dipped 3.1 per cent on a like-for like basis and 2.8 per cent on a total basis.

“Uncertainty surrounding the UK’s imminent exit from the European Union has hit consumer spending,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.

“While real incomes have started to rise over the past year, shoppers have been reluctant to spend this February, holding back growth.”

Barclaycard said the declining spend was due to consumers prioritising experiences rather than materialism.

The BRC reported in January that the high street suffered its worst Christmas since the 2008 financial crisis.

However, last month the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor reported that retail sales had increased by 2.2 per cent against an increase of 1.4 per cent in the same month in 2018, marking the highest growth since June.

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