Retail sales fall in February

BDO's monthly High Street Sales Tracker (HSST) recorded a -1.7 per cent fall in year-on-year sales for February - the first negative growth for the month of February since 2012 (when it was down - 1.5 per cent).

Fashion fell -2.9 per cent for the whole of February. Homewares sales fell slightly by -0.5 per cent, yet the lifestyle sector increased sales by 0.8 per cent in February. Non-store sales rose by 18.3 per cent compared to the same period last year. The fall for February reflects a downward trend that has been building since the middle of January. While the overall picture for January was positive (up 1.4 per cent), sales dropped off as soon as the January discounting season ended and retailers started to bring in full-price Spring lines.

Garden centre plant and gardening sales are reported to have been poor because of wet weather. Catering sales are believed to have passed 40 per cent in garden centre chains such as Dobbies in the month.

BDO retail head Sophie Michael said: "Low consumer confidence, a weak pound and the forthcoming introduction of the National Living Wage means retailers are facing an even more challenging period. After a strong start to the year, primarily driven by the sales period, retailers have returned to negative like-for-like revenue growth. The canny consumer continues to shop for bargains. Retailers have to find ways of enticing the customer back into store during full price periods through a rich product mix and the right customer experience. With traditional shopping periods of Easter, Mothers’ Day and the March Bank holiday falling earlier this year than in 2015, retailers have an opportunity to reverse the downward trend and build year-on-year sales in March." 

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