UK Retail Sales Log Partial Recovery In February

UK retail sales logged only a partial recovery in February as the third lockdown continued to weigh on non-essential goods sales, data from the Office for National Statistics showed on Friday.

Retail sales volume, including auto fuel, posted a monthly growth of 2.1 percent, in contrast to January’s 8.2 percent decrease. The pace of growth matched economists’ expectations.

Excluding auto fuel, retail sales gained 2.4 percent on month, in contrast to the 8.7 percent decrease seen in January and faster than the forecast of +1.9 percent.

Non-food stores provided the largest positive contribution to the monthly growth in February aided by increases in department stores and household goods stores sales.

Food store sales grew 2.9 percent on month and non-food store sales climbed 4.1 percent. Within non-food sector, clothing and footwear showed the biggest monthly fall of 9.7 percent.

On a yearly basis, retail sales fell at a slower pace of 3.7 percent after decreasing 5.9 percent in January. This was the second consecutive drop and was better than the expected drop of -3.5 percent.

Excluding auto fuel, retail sales were down 1.1 percent annually, following a 3.7 percent drop seen in the prior month. Economists had forecast an annual drop of 1.5 percent.

The proportion spent online increased to 36.1 percent in February, the highest on record. This compared with 35.2 percent in January.

According to the latest Distributive Trades Survey from the Confederation of British Industry, retailers expect sales to rise in April as non-essential retail shops are anticipated to reopen from mid-April.

Things will improve when shops are allowed to reopen in April, though a greater consumer focus on services and the trend towards online shopping means the headwinds for traditional high-street retailers are building, James Smith, an ING economist said.

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