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Retail

UK Retail Sales Show No Change In February, Says ONS

By Reuters
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UK Retail Sales Show No Change In February, Says ONS

British retail sales unexpectedly held steady in February after rising by a revised 3.6% January, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed on Friday.

'Sales volumes in clothing and department stores grew because of new collections but falls in food stores and fuel retailers offset this growth,' the ONS said in a statement. 'Meanwhile online sales increased, particularly for clothing retailers, as wet weather affected footfall.

'More broadly, sales volumes fell by 0.4% in the three months to February 2024 when compared with the previous three months, and by 1.0% when compared with the three months to February 2023.'

A Reuters poll of economists had forecast that sales volumes would fall by 0.3% on the month.

Food Retail

Food store sales volumes declined by 0.3% over the month, following a recovery in January from the record fall experienced in December 2023, the ONS said.

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Respondents cited poor weather conditions as a factor leading to reduced footfall.

Market Conditions

"There was growth in clothing, which rebounded after recent falls as people invested in the new season’s collections, as well as department stores," Heather Bovill, senior statistician at the Office for National Statistics, said.

"However, these were offset by falls in fuel sales, possibly affected by rising prices, and a reduction in food sales."

Sterling was little changed against the U.S. dollar immediately after the figures were released.

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Bovill said the wet weather had impacted in-store sales during the month but boosted online shopping.

British Retail Consortium

Commenting on the figures, Kris Hamer, director of insight at the British Retail Consortium, said, “February sales were hit by the wettest February on record, which dampened demand and depressed footfall. This was felt most in the more high-ticket categories such as furniture and electricals. Meanwhile, cosmetics and toiletries continued to sell well as popular brands go from strength to strength.

"Retailers are hopeful that with warmer weather and potential interest rate cuts around the corner, consumer confidence will soon spring back.”

Read More: UK Consumers Turn Positive About Their Finances, GfK Survey Shows

Additional reporting by ESM

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