Retail sales rebound in February as shoppers buy online

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Retail sales bounced back to growth last month following a bleak January as swathes of high-street stores remained shut, according to new figures.

The BRC-KPMG retail sales monitor for February revealed that total UK sales increased by 1% against the same month last year.

It came after trading slid in January after non-essential stores were temporarily shuttered as part of the latest nationwide lockdown.

Food sales continued to show strong growth as supermarkets and grocers were among essential stores to still welcome customers.

Food sales increased 7.6% on a like-for-like basis over the three months to February.

Meanwhile, non-food sales jumped to 6.6% like-for-like growth over the period as online sales for the category soared by 82.2%.

“The Prime Minister’s road map to reopening prompted a burst in spending on non-food items, such as school uniforms.

“Furthermore, with another month of lockdown still to go, online sales were high, rewarding the retailers who have invested digitally.

“While the uptick in sales is encouraging, many retailers are concerned about the months ahead.

“Many retail businesses will be hoping that customers will return to shops – and have spent hundreds of millions on making their premises Covid-secure –  but previous reopenings have shown that demand can be slow to come back.”

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, said: “Consumers continued to nest down for further weeks at home, with food and drink, technology, furniture and home accessories recording strong growth both online and on the high street.

In a separate report, Barclaycard revealed that total spending slumped in February against the same month last year as higher food sales were offset by lower spending on hospitality and travel.

Consumer spending dropped by 13.8% for the month as non-essential spending dropped by 22.1%.

It said this was largely driven by the closure of high-street stores and hospitality venues, with pubs and bars reporting a 95.7% spending fall while restaurants saw an 84.6% drop as they were restricted to takeaway operations.

Raheel Ahmed, head of consumer products at Barclaycard, said: “Despite a very challenging environment it’s inspiring to see many retailers remaining resilient and doing what they can to maximise online sales while physical stores remain closed.

“In addition, as we all spend more time at home, we’ve seen home subscription services, fresh food boxes and meal-kit services become a popular mainstay of life in lockdown.”

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