February records lowest retail sales growth since 2013
Written by Peter Walker
February retail sales were flat year-on-year, according to the Office for National Statistics, marking the lowest growth rate since March 2013.
The data collection for the period was completed by 29 February, so largely unaffected by recent developments with the Coronavirus. However, a small number of retailers suggested that online orders shipped from China were reduced because of COVID-19.
In the three months to February, the quantity bought in retail sales fell for the fourth consecutive month by 0.6 per cent – across all stores except non-store retailing.
The monthly growth rate showed that the overall decline of 0.3 per cent was because of falls in food stores, department stores and non-store retailing.
Non-store retailing sales fell by 2.8 per cent ,with feedback from retailers suggesting that extreme rainfall affected markets and stalls in this sector.
The Met Office stated that the country experienced a record amount of rainfall for the month of February, which was also the fifth-wettest calendar month in a series since 1862.
Online spending increased in February at two per cent when compared with January, with strong growth in all sectors within non-food stores. Textile, clothing and footwear stores saw the largest increase at 11 per cent, while non-store retailing was the only sector to show a decline, at 0.7 per cent.
Internet sales increased by five per cent year-on-year. Department stores were the only sectors to show a decline at 9.3 per cent. Textile, clothing and footwear stores reported the largest increase in sales at 14.9 per cent.
Online sales as a proportion of all retailing hit 19.6 per cent in February, an increase from 19.1 per cent the previous month.
Paul Kirkland, director of retail at Fujitsu, commented: “Although January saw a short term increase in footfall and sales, it’s clear there has been no significant return to the high street, with poor weather deterring consumers from making those all-important trips to the store.
“With a difficult March and April anticipated as stores close, the onus is now on retailers to capitalise on their online sales – and technology is helping them do this.”