Cold and rainy weather hits high street sales

RETAIL SALES fared better than expected in February, but the cold and wet weather deterred shoppers from hitting the new spring and summer clothes collections, official figures suggest.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the quantity bought in the retail industry decreased by 0.4​ per cent​ on January, while year-on-year sales registered a 3.8​ per cent​ increase.

The figures show sales held up well in February after jumping in January, when they were seemingly lifted by price savvy consumers looking to take advantage of the clearance sales.

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ONS head of retail sales Melanie Richard said: “Retailers had another strong month in February compared with last year with the exception of clothing and footwear.

“Some of those stores have been telling us that sales of their new spring and summer collections were hit by the cold and wet weather last month.”

The ONS said average store prices​ ​fell by 2.5​ per cent​ in February, the ​twentie​th consecutive month of year-on-year decreases.

​Andrew Coticelli, partner and consumer business lead at Deloitte in Yorkshire, said: “The early Easter weekend will likely put a spring in the step for March’s retail sales figures.

“Not only will consumers use the long weekend to purchase items in store, particularly in traditional segments such as gardening and DIY, but the additional leisure time will also encourage consumers to spend more time browsing and shopping online. Continued consumer confidence and spending will be crucial for the retail industry when faced with economic and political uncertainty in the coming months.”​

The value of online sales increased by 12.3 per cent on a year ago but decreased by 1 per cent compared with January.

Ian Gilmartin, head of retail and wholesale at Barclays, said: “Perhaps the most interesting figure relates to the continued growth of online sales. A number of analysts expected online sales to plateau following the Christmas period. However the opposite has occurred and online sales increased. The online consumer is here to stay, and the omni channel business model has never been more important for consumer businesses.”