High Streets Prepare For Last Minute Surge Of Christmas Shoppers

Growth of retail sales in the UK slowed down in February, bringing it into line with the 12-month average, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Like-for-like sales, which exclude new stores, rose by 0.1% compared with February last year, when they grew 0.2%. On a total basis, sales were up 1.1%, following a 1.7% rise last year.

The BRC said that following quick growth in January, February's slower rise brought the quarterly growth into line with the 12-month average of 1.8%.

The figure showed that growth in February was largely driven by furniture and homeware, while food, clothing and footwear saw sales fall slightly.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive, British Retail Consortium, said: “February’s slowdown was noticeable across all product categories bar stationery and health & beauty, as Valentine’s Day provided a welcome growth spurt for those retailers well prepared for the occasion. The fashion categories struggled while some growth was noted in books and vision. Competition remained strong in the grocery sector, while consumers proved willing to spend money on large ticket items, namely furniture, driving the month’s performance.

“This slow growth reflects the increasing pressure the industry is under, as highlighted in our recent Retail 2020 report. With the Budget due this month, we encourage the government to address the cumulative burden that retailers face; enabling growth and protecting jobs and communities.”

David McCorquodale, UK head of retail at KPMG which conducted the study alongside the BRC, said: “The home and the heart drove February’s sales growth as home improvement and Valentine’s Day campaigns brought their rewards. Furniture was once again the strongest category, helped by a buoyant housing market and promotional activity by retailers in the sector. Jewellers also saw sales sparkle on a romantic revival.

“With the implementation of the National Living Wage only weeks away, all the focus is on promotional activity to drive sales and on productivity to protect margins. With fashion design choices made and an early Easter this year, clothing retailers will be hoping for March sunshine to launch the new season’s wares.”