23 March 2017


Despite strong Valentine’s Day sales, the Retail Sales Statistics for February 2017 released today were not enough to keep falling figures at bay.

With Valentine’s Day sales making the retail industry around £1.6bn, there was still an underlying sluggish trade pattern, as 3 month on 3 month sales activity decreased by 1.4% for the second month in a row – the largest decrease since March 2010 and only the second fall since December 2013.

The key findings from the Retail Statistics showed:

  • Estimates of the quantity bought in retail sales increased by 3.7% compared with February 2016 and increased by 1.4% compared with January 2017; this monthly growth is seen across all store types.
  • The underlying pattern as suggested by the 3 month on 3 month movement decreased by 1.4% for the second month in a row; the largest decrease since March 2010 and only the second fall since December 2013.
  • Average store prices (including fuel) increased by 2.8% on the year, the largest growth since March 2012; the largest contribution came from petrol stations, where year-on-year average prices rose by 18.7%.
  • Online sales (excluding automotive fuel) increased year-on-year by 20.7% and by 3.3% on the month, accounting for approximately 15.3% of all retail spending.

Phil Mullis, Partner and Head of Retail and Wholesale at top-20 UK accountancy firm, Wilkins Kennedy, commented: “February was actually ok compared to the dismal growth in February 2016. This time, rising food prices helped drive inflation – but people still have to eat, so there will always be money to spend on food. However, this will eventually lead to a squeeze in non-essential purchases.

“Bigger ticket prices are particularly at risk, because whilst people will make smaller impulse purchases for the sake of Valentine’s Day, this is not sustainable in the long term.

“Half term holidays, the Six Nations Rugby and the usual Valentine’s Day boost reveal decent growth figures, but if you dig beneath the surface there is still some room for improvement.

“Let’s hope mum’s the word for March’s Sales Statistics.”

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