Retail sales run out of steam in February despite half-term and Valentine's Day boost

Kasmira Jefford
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There were a few broken hearts on the high street as retail sales growth slowed in February (Source: Getty)

RETAIL sales slowed in February after a strong start to the year that was boosted by the January sales.

Like-for-like sales rose by 0.1 per cent last month compared with February in 2015, when they had increased 0.2 per cent, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG’s monthly data released today.

The February slowdown contrasted with a 2.6 per cent jump in sales last month, when shoppers returned to the high street after a disappointing Christmas to make the most of the January sales.

On a total basis, sales were up 1.1 per cent, against a 1.7 per cent rise in February 2015, with growth over the three months staying in line with the 12-month average at 1.8 per cent.

Some categories such as furniture and home performed well in the period in the run-up to the traditional Spring selling season.

Stationers also experience a boost on the back of Valentine’s Day, with sales of cards and wrapping paper boosting profits.

However grocers, clothing and footwear retailers fared less well, with the BRC’s data showing like-for-like declines over the period.

Over the three months to February, like-for-like food sales fell by 1.1 per cent while non-food sales increased by 2.5 per cent, the data showed.

David McCorquodale, KPMG’s UK head of retail, said: “The home and the heart drove February’s sales growtas home improvement and Valentine’s Day campaigns brought their rewards. Furniture was once again the strongest category, helped by a buoyant housing market and promotional activity by retailers in the sector.Jewellers also saw sales sparkle on a romantic revival.”

Separate Barclaycard figures out today also show a slowdown in consumer spending growth to 3.3 per cent in February, although this was slightly ahead of Visa Europe’s figures earlier this week, reporting a household spending lift of 2.2 per cent.

Both card companies noted a jump in spending across restaurants, pubs and hotels thanks to the half-term break and Valentine’s Day.

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