February retail sales slide

Despite overall fall in sales, the BRC said toys showed gains for some, though amid strong competition.
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UK Retail sales fell 1.8 per cent on a like-for-like basis, and rose only 0.1 per cent on a total basis.

Non-food non-store sales (internet, mail-order and phone sales) in February continued to rise, albeit at a slower rate, and were 12.3 per cent higher than a year ago.

Stephen Robertson, director general, British Retail Consortium, said:

“These are disappointing figures. It's now clear we were right to fear January's surprise year-on-year sales rise was just a discount-driven blip. The short burst of spending unleashed by January clearances has largely vanished, replaced by sales as weak as most of last year.

"Early February snow didn't help but customers and retailers' difficulties run deeper. Meanwhile Government stands by. We're not looking for handouts but, from business rates increases to a supermarket ombudsman, we don't need costly new handicaps."

Helen Dickinson, head of retail, KPMG, said:

“The value of total sales managed to stay in positive territory for the month as a whole, albeit at a marginal 0.1 per cent, but the total value of non-food sales continues to fall. Although activity picked up later on [following bad weather in the first week], it dropped off again in the last week of the month following further headlines about the worsening economic outlook.

“Battling falling sales - total, as well as like-for-like - is not a sustainable prospect for many retailers in the non-food sectors, particularly as the impact of rising import costs is also filtering through to their margins. More announcements of job losses and other cost cutting measures in the sector look likely in the short term.”

Sharon Hardiman, head of non-store retailing, BRC, said:

"Non-store sales of non-food goods are barely a twentieth of total sales but they were well up on last year while store sales actually fell. Online and mail-order sales are not immune to the recession. February's growth was sharply down on the previous two months.

“Despite speculation, retailers found little evidence that severe snow early in the month boosted online sales to customers forced to stay at home.”


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