Contrary to the expectations of industry analysts, February retail sales experienced a surprise upward spike with consumers opting to spend more following a disappointing and anaemic Christmas period.
February sales data collected and published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), showed that retail sales volumes had increased by 1.5% when compared with data from February of last year.
The figure surpassed predictions made by retail analysts, who had forecasted a more conservative rise of 1.3%. Retail sales volume was also up by 0.8% compared with January figures, but across the three-month period of December, January and February, sales volume saw a fall of 1.4%, primarily due to a lacklustre December.
Retail food sales were the biggest driver of growth in terms of money spent rising by 0.6%, with non-food sales the only main sector to experience a fall, dropping 0.3% compared to January.
The February resurgence was boosted by online retailers, with internet sales increasing in terms of its proportion of all seasonally adjusted retail sales compared with January.
Online retail sales accounted for 17.2% of all February retail sales, continuing a general upward trend of more money being spent online with the proportion of online spending in February 2017 recorded at 15.6%.
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. 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, through clothing and household goods stores continued to see stronger price rises.”
BRC’s head of insights and analytics Rachel Lund also commented: “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.”