Purchases of clothes have driven retail sales growth, thanks to the easing of Covid restrictions.
Total like-for-like sales swelled 49.6 per cent in February, according to the BDO’s February High Street Sales Tracker. This was from a base of minus 3.1 per cent in February 2021, when the country was in the throes of a national lockdown.
Fashion like-for-like sales increased 68.1 per cent for the month, from a base of -3.6 per for February 2021.
However, non-store like-for-like sales fell in each week of February. Online like-for-like sales marked a record fall and the second consecutive month of decline.
It comes after e-commerce firms experienced accelerated demand during the pandemic, with physical stores closed and shoppers opting for ease above venturing to high streets.
However, BDO’s latest figures suggest firms will struggle to maintain the momentum of their Covid-19 boom.
Retailers have also been forced to hike prices for shoppers in the wake of labour and energy bills rising.
Retail voices have warned shoppers may cut back on spending as the cost of living crunch looms this spring.
Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said the month had seen strong like-for-like sales for retailers, but the cost of living crisis was yet to fully impact shoppers.
She explained: “Increases in energy prices and National Insurance won’t take effect until April. This may be the point at which the strong discretionary spending we’ve seen over recent months starts to subside. Retailers will also have to navigate the challenge of higher costs, and deciding whether they can absorb these or pass them on to consumers, at a time when the consumer purse is being squeezed.
“As the cost of living rises, some consumers will naturally want to adjust their shopping behaviours and seek out better value products to stretch their finances. At the same time, we also expect demand for higher priced premium products to remain strong. Once again, we may see those mid-level retailers who can’t afford to lower their prices really getting squeezed.
“This is all set against a backdrop of plummeting consumer confidence, which may presage a gloomy outlook for retailers in the next six months. To stay competitive, retailers will need to focus on the right products and product differentiation. Managing inventory levels and pricing will also be essential, as retailers respond to higher operational costs and fluctuating consumer demand.”