UK retail sales see return to growth

Retail sales saw growth last month, with an increase of 1 per cent in compared to 0.1 per cent in the previous year.

Sales were above the three-month average growth of 0.6 per cent and the 12-month average decline of 0.3 per cent, according to research by The British Retail Consortium and KPMG.

The BRC said that the prime minister’s roadmap to reopening had triggered a “burst in spending” on non-food items, like school uniforms for kids returning to school this week.

“Furthermore, with another month of lockdown still to go, online sales were high, rewarding the retailers who have invested digitally,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive, BRC. “Couples staying home for Valentine’s Day found themselves splashing out at their local supermarket, benefitting food sales. Meanwhile, the continued closure of so-called ‘non-essential’ retail has meant that non-food instore sales remained significantly down, underlining the importance of a successful reopening in April.”

She said that while the uptick in sales is encouraging, retailers are “concerned” about the coming months.

“ Many retail businesses will be hoping that customers will return to shops, and have spent hundreds of millions on making their premises Covid-secure, but previous reopenings have shown that demand can be slow to come back,” said Dickinson. “Government has a vital role to play in building up consumer confidence across the country to power the spending-led recovery.”

Paul Martin, KPMG UK head of retail, said: “After a bleak January sales performance and as the national lockdown continued, February saw the mildest of upturns for the retail sector, with just 1 per cent year on year growth as high street stores across the country kept their doors closed.

He added: “Consumers continued to nest down for further weeks at home, with food and drink, technology, furniture and home accessories recording strong growth both online and on the high street. Online channels recorded strong sales across all categories, with some even registering triple figure growth, whilst High Street clothing and health and beauty categories continue to suffer, with sales falling by double figures.”

Data from Barclaycard found that overall consumer spending fell 13.8 per cent in February as lockdown restrictions continued, while some sectors saw record growth.

Spending at discount stores saw an increase of 32.3 per cent, while home improvement and DIY spend saw a 10.3 per cent increase.

“Despite a very challenging environment, it’s inspiring to see many retailers remaining resilient and doing what they can to maximise online sales while physical stores remain closed,” said Raheel Ahmed, head of consumer products, Barclaycard. “In addition, as we all spend more time at home, we’ve seen home subscription services, fresh food boxes and meal-kit services become a popular mainstay of life in lockdown.”

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