Retail enjoys sales rise in February

Strongest sales growth for three years; plus online sales jump 10.9 per cent.
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UK like-for-like retail sales rose 2.7 per cent in February.

On a total basis, sales were up 4.4 per cent, against a 2.3 per cent rise in February 2012. Excluding "distortions" caused by the timing of Easter in previous years, that's the fastest rate of growth since February 2010 (4.5 per cent). 

Like-for-like sales growth was the fastest since December 2009.

Online sales were also up 10.9 per cent over February 2012, when they rose 9.9 per cent.

Helen Dickinson, Director General, British Retail Consortium, said: "After the disappointing figures that brought 2012 to a close, it's reassuring that the sales momentum established during an encouraging January has built not faded. 

"There are certainly highly-welcome signs here of gradual improvement and customers feeling a bit more positive. February saw growth across all parts of retailing, with big-ticket goods and items for the home recovering particularly well, possibly reflecting better conditions in the housing market.

"But it's too soon to assume this represents the permanent turnaround we need."

David McCorquodale, Head of Retail, KPMG, added: "Whilst one shouldn't read too much into one month's figures, February's data will provide a much needed fillip to retailers' confidence levels. 

"Relatively dry, if cold, weather and the occasional day of spring sunshine helped to lift clothing sales as well as drive footfall in the general direction of the department stores, with non-food and furnishing and flooring categories showing strong performances. 

"The forthcoming Budget will be a pivotal moment for the retail sector. If the proposed rise in business rates goes ahead then retailers will be placed under inexorable pressure. However, if the Chancellor chooses to freeze rates, then he could give the sector some much needed breathing space to tackle the significant pressures it is facing."

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