UK retail sales struggled in February, but clothing rose strongly
UK retail sales were unimpressive in February with volumes down 0.3% month-on-month, although they were still 3.7% above their pre-Covid February 2020 levels.
But there was good news too as non-food store sales volumes rose by 0.6% with growth in clothing (13.2%) and department stores (1.3%). The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said wider socialising and the return to the office following the lifting of Plan B restrictions at the end of January were “potential factors”.
It added that non-store retailing — mainly online — sales volumes fell by 4.8% over the month following strong growth in December (2.7%) and January (4%). Sales volumes were 33.2% above their pre-coronavirus levels.
Now, when it comes to the year-on-year figures, the picture was quite different, but the comparisons with February 2021 aren’t as useful as they would normally be given that the UK was in full lockdown this time last year. Sales volumes rose 7% compared to a year ago and values rose 11.1% as inflation kicked in.
And inflation could also have been playing its part in the volume fall for non-store sales. The ONS said that after non-store sales volumes had risen in the previous two months, February’s month-on-month fall could have been linked to affordability concerns. But of course, the fact that consumers last month were less concerned about Covid variants in physical stores would also have played a part.
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