By Daniel Hunter
UK retail sales values were down 0.3% on a like-for-like basis from February 2011, when sales had fallen 0.4%. On a total basis, sales were up 2.3%, against a 1.1% increase in February 2011.
Food sales picked up, helped by stocking up in the very cold weather. Non-food weakened further, despite continued promotions and discounts. For clothing, footwear and homewares, February was worse than January and December, especially for larger purchases, hit by consumer caution.
Non-food non-store (internet, mail-order and phone) sales growth slowed further after picking up sharply in December. Sales were 9.9% up on a year ago, down from 11.3% in January and 18.5% in December and also below the 10.4% in February 2011.
"The reality of weak sales shows that a convincing revival remains illusory," Stephen Robertson, Director General, British Retail Consortium, said.
"Falling inflation has eased the squeeze on household finances and halted the slide in consumer confidence but that's at risk from fuel price rises and Budget uncertainty. Unemployment is expected to rise further causing increased nervousness about job security, which is keeping confidence fragile. Any sense of improving optimism is not yet translating into more spending.
"Total sales growth is still below inflation, so overall customers are actually buying less than a year ago, while discounts are eating into margins. Food picked up but non-food sales deteriorated with goods affected by the slow housing market among those particularly struggling.
"In this climate of continued caution, the Chancellor must use the Budget to hold back business costs, which will support jobs, growth and the much-needed consumer turnaround."
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