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February retail boost after slow Christmas sales

UK Retail sales jumped in February according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics
Gareth McKeown and PA

UK RETAIL sales jumped in February, while prices rose at their smallest year-on-year rate since January 2017, official figures have revealed.

Retail sales volumes rose 0.8 per cent on January, driven mostly by supermarkets, vehicle fuel and online shopping, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Non-food retailers, which include department stores and clothes shops, suffered a fall in sales.

However the three-month figure to February, which smooths out monthly volatility, shows sales fell by 0.4 per cent after poor sales in December and January.

The figures show retail prices rose in February by 2.5 per cent year-on-year, the smallest increase since January 2017.

Compared with a year earlier, the ONS said February retail sales were up 1.5 per cent amid expectations of a 1.3 per cent rise.

ONS senior statistician Rhian Murphy said: "Retail sales did grow in February, with increases seen in food, non-store and fuel, but this followed two months of declines in these sectors.

"However, the underlying three-month picture is one of falling sales, mainly due to strong declines across all sectors in December.

"Store prices continue to rise across all store types, but at a lower rate than the previous month due to a slowdown in price growth, though clothing and household goods stores continued to see stronger price rises."

Graeme MacLaughlin of Barclays Corporate Banking Northern Ireland said it was far from a sparkling result for retailers in February, but a "marked improvement" from the start of the year.

"There are a couple of bright spots that should encourage the industry. Year-on-year growth remains in positive territory, online sales are yet again flourishing and the strengthening of sterling this year is beginning to ease some of the problems caused by increased supply chain costs for many businesses.This has contributed to the fall in the overall and retail sector inflation rate, which will be very welcome news for retailers and their customers."

Looking ahead Mr MacLaughlin expects the poor weather conditions to impact on this month's results, but is hopeful when spring finally arrives it will provide a boost to footfall and consumer spending.

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