No love lost in February 2016 retail sales

Despite the £1.6bn spend during the Valentine's Day season; the ONS February 2016 Retail Sales revealed this wasn't enough to give the retail sector the lift it needed.

For some businesses, Valentine's Day is a bigger event than Christmas and with 14th February falling on a Sunday in 2016, many retailers set their sights on sky-high sales. However, with the amount spent in the retail industry actually decreasing compared with January 2016, Valentine's Day didn't give as much of a boost to sales as many hoped it would.

The key findings from the Retail Statistics showed:

  • Year-on-year estimates of the quantity bought in the retail industry showed growth for the 34th consecutive month in February 2016, increasing by 3.8% compared with February 2015.
  • The underlying pattern in the data, as suggested by the 3 month on 3 month movement in the quantity bought, showed growth for the 27th consecutive month, increasing by 0.8%.
  • Compared with January 2016, the quantity bought in the retail industry is estimated to have decreased by 0.4%.
  • Average store prices (including petrol stations) fell by 2.5% in February 2016 compared with February 2015, the 20th consecutive month of year-on-year price falls.
  • The value of online sales increased by 12.3% in February 2016 compared with February 2015 and decreased by 1.0% compared with January 2016.

There could be more bad news for the clothing sector, which continues to move sluggishly. Next has recently experienced lower profit growth and it expects next year's growth to be down on previous years.

Phil Mullis, Partner and Head of Retail and Wholesale at top-20 UK accountancy firm, Wilkins Kennedy, commented: "Next is a true barometer of UK retail, so its lower growth forecast is a worry. Prices continue to fall across all retail sectors but people may be spending their money on eating out rather than products."

"However, there was better news from the Household Goods Sector with continued growth in the purchase of big ticket items."

"We continue to shop online, with spending of £870.8 million in February 2016 – an increase of 12.3% compared to February 2015."

"So, what will the Easter bunny bring us for March 2016 retail sales? A big hop forward perhaps."

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