UK retail sales returned to growth in February after the government revealed plans to ease the coronavirus lockdown measures.
The Prime Minister set out the roadmap to exit lockdown on 22 February – with some plans reported in the preceding days – prompting shoppers to buy non-food items such as school uniforms and going out clothes.
On a total basis, sales were up one per cent in February, above the three month average growth of 0.6 per cent and the 12-month average decline of 0.3 per cent.
Retail sales were up 9.5 per cent on a like-for-like basis compared to February last year, when they had dipped 0.4 per cent.
In-store non-food sales declined 21.4 per cent in the three months to February on a like-for-like due to the prolonged closure of non-essential stores.
However, online non-food sales boomed 82.2 per cent in February, against a growth of 3.6 per cent in February 2020, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
This is above the three-month average of 68.1 per cent and the 12-month average of 49.1 per cent.
Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive, said: ““February saw a return to growth after a disappointing start to the year.
“The Prime Minister’s roadmap to reopening prompted a burst in spending on non-food items, such as school uniforms.
“Furthermore, with another month of lockdown still to go, online sales were high, rewarding the retailers who have invested digitally.”
She added: “While the uptick in sales is encouraging, many retailers are concerned about the months ahead.
“Many retail businesses will be hoping that customers will return to shops, and have spent hundreds of millions on making their premises Covid-secure, but previous reopenings have shown that demand can be slow to come back.
“Government has a vital role to play in building up consumer confidence across the country to power the spending-led recovery.”