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BRC confirms February sales jump

shoppingAConsumers returned to shopping last month, but the British Retail Consortium warns of 'short-lived lift' fear. The value of UK like for like retail sales rose by 2.7% in February, compared with a 0.3% fall in 2012.

Total sales were 4.4% higher, compared with a rise of 2.3% in 2012, according to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.

The figures confirm those yesterday from accountants BDO which suggested shoppers had returned to the high street after the snowy weather which affected the second half of January.

'After the disappointing figures that brought 2012 to a close, it's reassuring that the sales momentum established during an encouraging January has built not faded. There are certainly highly-welcome signs here of gradual improvement and customers feeling a bit more positive. February saw growth across all parts of retailing, with big-ticket goods and items for the home recovering particularly well, possibly reflecting better conditions in the housing market. But it's too soon to assume this represents the permanent turnaround we need,' says Helen Dickinson, BRC director general.

'This month's Budget gives the Government a great opportunity to act to secure real and lasting revival from what could be no more than a short-lived lift. Retail is central to generating the growth and jobs so critical to the UK's economic recovery but weak consumer confidence is the real and present obstacle. Consumers need a Budget that leaves them with more money in their pockets and the confidence to spend it and retailers with the means to invest. I hope the chancellor seizes the moment.'

'Against all expectations, retail sales rose this month to achieve the strongest underlying sales growth for three years. Relatively dry, if cold, weather and the occasional day of spring sunshine helped to lift clothing sales as well as drive footfall in the general direction of the department stores, with non-food and furnishing and flooring categories showing strong performances,' says David McCorquodale, KPMG head of retail.

'The forthcoming Budget will be a pivotal moment for the retail sector. If the proposed rise in business rates goes ahead then retailers will be placed under inexorable pressure. However, if the chancellor chooses to freeze rates, then he could give the sector some much needed breathing space to tackle the significant pressures it is facing.'