February sees retail sales grow as online continues to increase share

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In February 2018, the quantity bought in retail sales increased by 0.8% when compared with the previous month, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The monthly increase to the quantity bought follows two monthly declines in December and January, resulting in an overall decrease of 0.4% in the three months to February.

The year-on-year growth rate increased by 1.5% following a general slowdown when compared with an increase of 3.3% in February 2017; however, this stabilised in recent months as there is little movement in the year-on-year growth since November 2017.

While the ONS continues to see price increases across all sectors, there is a slowdown to growth in the last two months, falling from 3.1% in December to 2.5% in February.

Internet sales saw an increase in its proportion of all seasonally adjusted retailing in February when compared with January, accounting for 17.2% of all retail; this continues the general upward trend in money spent online as the proportion of online spending in February 2017 was at 15.6%.

ONS senior statistician Rhian Murphy said: “Retail sales did grow in February, with increases seen in food, non-store and fuel, but this followed two months of decline in these sectors.

“However, the underlying three-month picture is one of falling sales, mainly due to strong declines across all main sectors in December.

“Store prices continue to rise across all store types, but at a lower rate than the previous month due to a slowdown in price growth, though clothing and household goods stores continued to see stronger price rises.”

Accountancy firm Wilkins Kennedy head of retail and wholesale Phil Mullis commented on the figures.

“It looks as there was a little bit of romance in February’s retail sales; with a lift from January 2018, partly driven by food sales,” he said.

“February’s retail sales statistics were encouraging, but we can’t ignore that we’ve also seen the demise of Toys R Us as well as administration for Maplin – both large national retailers with extensive store estates. Also, if we consider a comparison of the figures from a year earlier, we are actually in the same position we were in originally in February 2017, so in fact, sales remain relatively flat.

“Looking forward into March, it will be interesting to see how the Beast from the East weather pattern affected retailers, particularly those wishing to push out spring collections when a coat, hat and scarf would have been the order of the day.”

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