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ONS retail sales figures show the market remains tough for retailers

Published: 23 March 2018 - Kiran Grewal
 

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) released its retail sales figures for February 2018 yesterday (March 22), it showed the quantity bought in by retail sales increased by 0.8% when compared with the previous month, with increases seen across all main sectors except non-food stores.

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 increased by 1.5% following a general slowdown when compared with an increase of 3.3% in February 2017; however, this stabilised in recent months as we see little movement in the year-on-year growth since November 2017.

While we continue to see price increases across all sectors, 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 in its 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 as the proportion of online spending in February 2017 was at 15.6%.

Commenting on today’s official retail figures, ONS senior statistician, Rhian Murphy 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."

Commenting on the latest ONS retail sales figures, head of retail insights and analytics at the British Retail Consortium, Rachel Lund, said: “February’s retail sales figures showed that consumers are still feeling the grip of inflation on their spending power. Growth in values and volumes on last year remained weak, compared to recent historical standards.

"Consumers are being careful with their spending, but are not shy of splashing out when the offer is right. February saw furniture sales do well as shoppers took advantage of credit facilities and Valentine’s day inspired sales of Jewellery and watches. That said, the market remains tough for retailers; even with the first glimmers of a return to real wage growth for UK workers this week growth in spending is likely to remain sluggish throughout the coming year.”

Source: ONS

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