Retail figures raise hopes of recovery

Retail sales increased by a better than expected 2.6 per cent in February to £25.4bn following several months of subdued growth, according to the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics.


Sales growth was driven by the non-food sector particularly from retailers of computer and telecoms equipment as consumers bought new technology such as tablets and made purchases of big ticket items that have previously been put off.

In the food sector volume sales fell 1.2 per cent while value sales increased 0.7 per cent during the month. In non-food volume sales increased 5.4 per cent while the value of sales increased 4.3 per cent.

Online sales reached a weekly average of £540.5m during the month, a 10.1 per cent year on year increase. Online now accounts for 9.7 per cent of all retail spending.

Online grocery sales increased to account for 3.6 per cent (£97.3m) of total food sales, up from 3.3 per cent a year ago.

The figures follow Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget which yesterday cut fuel and beer duty and raised the threshold for tax free income to help household spending.

Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium warns that while the figures give cause for optimism, the economy remains “fragile” and growth should not be taken for granted.

She says: “There are some reassuring signs here that people are starting to feel a little more positive, but it’s too early to gauge whether this is a temporary upturn or if we’re on the cusp of more secure and lasting revival. 

“Yesterday’s Budget brought some good news for consumers which should help to lift the mood further and build on this boost to spending power, but it was disappointing that direct help for high streets barely had a look-in.  This gradual growth certainly can’t be taken for granted, as the mixed picture of the last few months confirms that the path to recovery remains a fragile one.”

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