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Shoppers spend (a bit) more on the high streets in February’s warm weather

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Unseasonably warm weather seems to have encouraged shoppers out on to the high street in February, official figures suggest.

Ecommerce accounted for a smaller proportion of retail sales in February (17.6%) than in January (18.8%), though both figures were ahead of February 2018, according to the February 2019 Retail Sales Report from the ONS. Online sales grew by 9.4% compared to last year, but fell by 3.3% compared to January 2019.

Across all retail channels – and predominantly in stores – the figures suggest that shoppers spent 4.1% more on retail sales, excluding automotive fuel, than they did a year earlier, to buy 3.8% more goods. Compared to the previous month, sales were 0.4% ahead by value, and 0.2% ahead by volume. However, food sales were down by 1.5%. Taken together the figures suggest that shoppers spent slightly more money on non-food purchases on the high street than they did in January, but the ecommerce figures show a fall in how much of that took place online.

The online figures generally show sales growing compared to the same time last year for textile, clothing and footwear stores (+6.4%), household goods stores (+9.8%), and other stores (+30.5%), while department stores (+1.7%) and food stores (+0.3%) were only slightly ahead. 

Department store sales (-22.8%) remained well down compared to last month, as were textile, clothing and footwear stores (-22.5%). Online sales at household goods stores were 6.7% down. However, sales at other (+13.4%) and food (+3.9%) stores were up compared to January.

Kevin Edwards, group client strategy director at affiliate network, said: “Following a string of negative news about the high street, this morning’s announcement shines some light on UK retail, with sales actually up 0.4% from the previous month. It’s not easy to pin exactly what this success was based on, but the unseasonably warm weather will definitely have helped as it encourages shoppers to hit the streets and alters their spending habits. For example, during the warm spell in February we noticed across our network an increase in home and garden sales of 15% and local holidays 29%, whilst airline sales dropped 40%.

“Although online sales as a proportion of retailing actually decreased from January, that can likely be attributed to the strong focus by retailers on discounts and sales during January, and you can still see a year-on-year increase of 9.4% when compared with the previous year. This just goes to show the continued dominance of online shopping, which shows no sign of slowing down.”

Image: Fotolia

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