Retail sales slipped in February compared to January, according to the latest data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today.
Retail sales volumes fell by 0.8 per cent on January, with values down by 0.4 per cent. The decline surprised analysts but sales values were still up by 4.5 per cent over the last quarter compared to the same quarter a year earlier.
January saw a major surprise when it was announced that sales volumes increased by 0.9 per cent. However, this was revised down by the ONS today to just 0.3 per cent.
Howard Archer, Chief UK & European Economist at HIS Global said: “There is a double whammy of bad news in the retail sales data with sales volumes falling by a much greater than expected 0.8% in February and January’s increase being revised sharply down from 0.9% to 0.3%.”
Once again, online sales continued to show resilience and growth, with 10.7 per cent of all sales made online in February.
Some experts believe that February’s poor showing was just a re-balance following heavy discounting in the previous two months that had helped boost retail sales figures.
The ONS said that the biggest decline in sales had come from reductions in the sales of clothing and footwear. Food sales fell slightly, by 0.1 per cent.
Mr Archer said: “It is notable that non-food sales fell by 1.5% month-on-month in February which indicates that consumers were particularly reluctant to make discretionary purchases.”
Store price inflation or the retail price deflator rose from 2.2 per cent in January to 2.4 per cent in February but was driven by the food store sector which was the only retail sector that saw store price inflation increase.
Mr Archer said: “This highlights the risk that inflation may be stickier than hoped for over the coming months and hamper consumer spending.”
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