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Published on March 22nd, 2018 | by The GC Team

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UK retail sales grow in February but non-food still lagging

In its statistical bulletin on retail sales in the UK for the month of February 2018 published today (22 March), the Office for National Statistics says the overall quantity bought in retail sales increased by 0.8% in February compared to the previous month. However, the increases were seen “across all main sectors except non-food stores.”

Looking at the broader picture, says the ONS, “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 was up by 1.5%, compared with an increase of 3.3% in February 2017

“While we continue to see price increases across all sectors,” said the ONS, “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 [as a] 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.” (In February 2017 online spending as a proportion of all retailing was 15.6%.)

Rhian Murphy, ONS Senior Statistician 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.

“Non-food stores were the only main sector to show a decrease in contributions to the overall growth for both the quantity bought and amount spent when compared with January 2018. It was down 0.3 percentage points for both measures as consumers instead spend on essential items.”

David Jinks, Head of Consumer Research at e-commerce delivery organisation ParcelHero, told GC Magazine: “British shoppers spent £1,230 million online this February, compared with £1,193 million in January. Online stores are continuing to eat High Street stores’ lunch, and there seems no end to the problems facing many famous retail names.

“The only glimmer of hope is that Britain’s beleaguered department stores saw an overall 20.7% rise in year-on-year internet sales as their switch to an integrated multichannel approach reaps rewards.

“It looks like it’s being left to department stores such as John Lewis to show how a High Street store with a reputation for quality service can carry that over into its online offering. Other retailers have to get this right, or this year’s list of failures could become catastrophic.”

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