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UK retail sales expand in February

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Written by: Adam Lewis
23/03/2017
After three months of declines, UK retail sales increased by 1.4% in February compared with January 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Against expectations of just 0.4% month-on-month growth these sales were better than expected and were seen across all store types, while year-on-year retail sales increased by 3.7%.

However in the three months to February, sales volumes fell by 1.4%, a sharper slide than the 0.5% decline for the three months to January. This was the biggest three-month fall recorded by the ONS since March 2010.

Commenting on the figures, Kate Davies, ONS senior statistician said: “February’s retail sales figures show fairly strong growth, though the underlying three-month picture shows falling sales as February’s figures follow two consecutive months of decline in December and January.

“The underlying trend suggests that rising petrol prices in particular have had a negative effect on the overall quantity of goods bought over the last three months.”

Michael Baxter, economics commentator for the Share Centre said: “Given that month-on-month retail sales had fallen in the three previous months there was always a chance of a mild bounce-back in February – the surprise relates to the scale of the bounce-back.”

However Baxter said the quarterly 1.4% drop in retail sales perhaps gives a better picture of the underlying trend.

He said: “With inflation likely to carry on rising this year, households are likely to see their disposable incomes, after allowing for inflation, fall. This will have a negative impact on retail sales. While the February pick-up was a positive sign, greater challenges lie ahead for the high street.

“However, for online sales it was a much more positive story. In fact, online sales (ex-automotive fuel) jumped 3.3% month-on-month and 20.7% year-on-year. Online sales now account for 15.3% of retail spending: the data highlights how retailers who can master their online presence can buck the trend.”

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