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Retail sales slightly recover in February but fashion sales halve

By Huw Hughes

26 Mar 2021

UK retail sales volumes recovered slightly in February ahead of the easing of lockdowns restrictions, but fashion sales halved, new data reveals.

Overall retail sales volumes partly recovered with an increase of 2.1 percent in February compared with the 8.2 percent fall seen in the previous month. That meant sales were still down by 3.7 percent compared to pre-Covid levels a year earlier.

That’s according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The largest drop was seen by clothing retailers, which reported a 50.4 percent fall in sales volumes when compared with February 2020.

Online sales take record share

In the three months to February 2021, retail sales volume fell by 6.3 percent compared with the previous three months, with strong declines in both clothing stores and other non-food stores, ONS said.

The proportion spent online increased to 36.1 percent in February 2021, the highest on record. It compares with 35.2 percent in January 2021 and 20 percent in February 2020.

According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), UK stores have now lost 27 billion pounds from lost sales during the three lockdowns. It also said 67,000 UK retail jobs were lost between December 2019 and 2020.

BRC CEO Helen Dickinson said in a statement: “While the prime minister’s roadmap helped boost spending on back-to-school items, consumer demand remained weak overall. Meanwhile, online sales remained strong, providing a lifeline for customers, and rewarding those retailers who have adapted and grown their digital offering over the last 12 months.

“Retail remains an essential part in unlocking consumer demand and driving forward the country’s economic recovery. It is essential that all retailers are able to open – and stay open – from April 12, and that government continues to offer necessary support to businesses as many begin the process of trading their way back to growth.

“The ongoing business rates consultation offers a pathway to supporting investment in retail stores and warehouses, but only if government acts quickly to fix this broken tax system and its damaging effects on the industry.”

Image: FashionUnited