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Established 1996
Saturday 30 May 2020


Storm clouds hang over retail in February

Written by Peter Walker

UK retail sales decreased 0.4 per cent on a like-for-like basis in February, when they had increased 2.6 per cent from the preceding year, according to the latest British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG figures.

Over the three months to February, in-store sales of non-food items declined 1.8 per cent on a total and 1.9 per cent on a like-for-like basis. This was better than the 12-month total average decline of 3.1 per cent, but positively distorted by the inclusion of Black Friday in December.

During the same period, food sales increased 0.3 per cent on a like-for-like basis and one per cent on a total basis – below the 12-month total average growth rate of 1.2 per cent.

Over the three-months to February, non-food retail sales in the UK increased by 0.6 per cent on a like-for-like and 0.7 per cent on a total basis. This was above the 12-month total average decline of 1.4 per cent, but positively distorted by the inclusion of Black Friday in December.

Online non-food sales increased by 3.6 per cent in February, against growth of 5.4 per cent in February 2019. This was above the 12-month average of 2.9 per cent.

The non-food online penetration rate increased from 29.1 per cent in February 2019 to 31.1 per cent this year.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said that storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge took their toll on retail sales; particularly in fashion. “Despite many indicators suggesting a rise in confidence among UK shoppers in recent months, this has failed to translate into higher retail sales, however, the end of the month saw a slight rise in spending on food and healthcare as a result of concerns around coronavirus.”

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, commented: “Subdued grocery has shown a slight recovery, although the edging up of prices will have contributed to that growth – in the short-term, any potential supply chain disruption caused by Covid-19 will be felt acutely by grocers, so developments will have to be watched closely.

“February saw the UK get hit by one storm after another, so it’s unsurprising that online fared fractionally better than the high street; generally though, demand for non-food items remains woefully low.”

The BRC and KPMG noted that 2020 is a 53-week year in the ONS calendar, so as a result of the extra week in January, the comparable 2019 performances cited may differ from those published last year; due to the one-week shift in the comparison.



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