UK retail sales values fell 1.8% on a like-for-like basis, and rose only 0.1% on a total basis, from February 2008. On both measures, sales fell back after January’s clearance-driven improvement. Internet, mail-order and phone sales in February were 12.3% higher than a year ago. This continued the slowdown from the 30.0% gain in December.
Stephen Robertson, Director General, British Retail Consortium, said: “These are disappointing figures. It's now clear we were right to fear January's surprise year-on-year sales rise was just a discount-driven blip. The short burst of spending unleashed by January clearances has largely vanished, replaced by sales as weak as most of last year. "Early February snow didn't help but customers and retailers' difficulties run deeper.
Helen Dickinson, Head of Retail, KPMG, said: “The value of total sales managed to stay in positive territory for the month as a whole, albeit at a marginal 0.1%, but the total value of sales continues to fall. The women's and men's clothing sectors had their worst month since April 2008, being impacted significantly by the snowy weather in the first week of the month. Although activity picked up later on, it dropped off again in the last week of the month following further headlines about the worsening economic outlook. Battling falling sales - total, as well as like-for-like - is not a stainable prospect for many retailers, particularly as the impact of rising import costs is also filtering through to their margins. More announcements of job losses and other cost cutting measures in the sector look likely in the short term.”