According to data released by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) the sale of home accessories was one of just three categories to show retail growth during the month of February, the others being furniture and health and beauty.
UK retail sales rose just 0.1% on a like-for-like basis compared with February 2015, driven by sales in home accessories and furniture. On a total basis, sales were up 1.1% against a 1.7% rise in February 2015.
Online sales of non-food products in the UK grew 10.7% in February 2016 versus February 2015, marking the slowest growth since October and falling short of the three and 12 month averages of 13.7% and 12.9% respectively.
Online sales represented 20.4% of total non-food sales, against 18.9% in February 2015. The non-food online penetration rate remained above 20% at 20.4%, 1.5 percentage points above February 2015.
Said the BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson OBE: "After a strong start to the year, February's growth slowed to 1.1 per cent and 0.1 per cent on a like-for-like basis. This fell below the three-month and the twelve-month total averages, both in line at 1.8 per cent.
"February's slowdown was noticeable across all product categories bar Stationery and Health & Beauty, as Valentine's Day provided a welcome growth spurt for those retailers well prepared for the occasion. The fashion categories struggled while some growth was noted in books and vision. Competition remained strong in the grocery sector, while consumers proved willing to spend money on large ticket items, namely furniture, driving the month's performance.
"This slow growth reflects the increasing pressure the industry is under, as highlighted in our recent Retail 2020 report. With the Budget due this month, we encourage the Government to address the cumulative burden that retailers face; enabling growth and protecting jobs and communities."
KPMG head of retail UK David McCorquodale added: "The home and the heart drove February's sales growth as home improvement and Valentine's Day campaigns brought their rewards. Furniture was once again the strongest category, helped by a buoyant housing market and promotional activity by retailers in the sector. Jewellers also saw sales sparkle on a romantic revival.
"Stationers performed well during this period, with sales of cards and wrapping paper boosting profits. Unfortunately the "Valentine's effect" did not rub off on food and drink sales, which declined for the second month of the year.
"With the implementation of the National Living Wage only weeks away, all the focus is on promotional activity to drive sales and on productivity to protect margins. With fashion design choices made and an early Easter this year, clothing retailers will be hoping for March sunshine to launch the new season's wares."