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Rain causes retail sales to flatline

Rain causes retail sales to flatline
Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

Retail sales volumes were estimated to be flat (0%) in February 2024, following an increase of 3.6% in January 2024, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Wet weather put off many people from heading out to the high street, with the South of England experiencing more than twice the level of average rainfall.

The ONS said that retail sales volumes in clothing and department stores grew because of new collections, but falls in food stores and fuel retailers offset this growth.

Sales volumes at department stores and other non-food stores also grew over the month (by 1.6% and 0.4%, respectively). However, household goods stores fell by 1%, with respondents reporting the economic climate and poor weather as factors that contributed to the fall.

Overall, sales volumes fell by 0.4% in the three months to February 2024 when compared with the previous three months, and by 1% when compared with the three months to February 2023.

Online sales up

The amount spent online rose by 2.1% over the month to February 2024 (2.2% over the year). The ONS said this monthly rise was the largest since July 2023, when shoppers switched to online shopping because of poor weather and increased promotions.

Clothing retailers reported strong online sales, while department stores and household goods stores were the only two sub-sectors where retail sales values fell over the month.

This monthly increase in online sales led to a rise in the proportion of sales made online, from 25.1% in January 2024 to 25.7% in February 2024.

Danni Hewson, head of financial analysis at AJ Bell, said: “No surprises that February’s downpours kept people off high streets and tucked up in their dry living rooms. But consumers were tempted by new season collections and turned back to online shopping to expand their wardrobes.

“Just like last July, the proportion of online sales shot up as shoppers made the most of promotions to add a splash of spring colour to their working attire, even if winter remained firmly entrenched outside the door.

“After a few tricky months, clothing retailers needed a win, and those that have toiled to create must-have pieces at a price point that works for their buyer will be feeling a kind of fuzzy relief. It wasn’t all good news, and those gains for virtual department and clothing stores were offset by falls in food and fuel.”

Related: Shoppers spent less as wet weather rained on retail sales