UK retail sales dropped slightly in February as geopolitical uncertainty and inflation dampened consumers’ desire to spend, though sales for clothing and footwear were up, new data shows. Overall retail sales volumes fell 0.3% last month following a rise of 1.9% in January. But February sales were still 3.7% above pre-Covid levels from the same month in 2020. That’s according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Non-store retailing sales volumes fell by 4.8% in February following strong growth of 2.7% in December and 4% in January. But sales volumes were still 33.2% above February 2020 levels.
Fashion sales grow as Covid restrictions end
Despite the overall month-on-month drop, there was a 0.6% uptick in non-food stores sales thanks to a 13.2% increase in clothing sales and a 1.3% increase in department stores sales as shoppers returned to the office and social events. The proportion of overall retail sales online fell to 27.8% in February 2022, its lowest proportion since March 2020 (22.7%).
Responding to the latest ONS Retail Sales Index figures, Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Consumers face a rocky road ahead, with rises in the energy price cap and NI contributions both coming next week. Meanwhile confidence has been knocked by the continued rise in inflation, as well as the uncertainty created by the situation in Ukraine.”
The figures come a day after chancellor Rishi Sunak gave his 2022 Spring Statement, which received a lukewarm welcome from retailers. “While the chancellor’s Spring Statement offered some relief for consumers, rising inflation and next week’s rise in the energy price cap mean that real discretionary incomes are likely to fall in the coming months, as the cost of living soars,” Dickinson said.