Shoppers continue to spend with 0.4% retail lift

Retail sales rose in February as shoppers appeared to shrug off Brexit uncertainty, official figures show.

Thursday, 21st March 2019, 5:50 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st March 2019, 5:51 pm
Improved spend in February

Sales were unexpectedly up 0.4% on the previous month, and by 0.7% on the last quarter, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Unusually warm weather in February contributed to the rise in retail sales, the ONS added, boosting spending at garden centres and on sporting equipment.

There was little sign of shoppers stockpiling groceries ahead of Brexit, with a monthly 1.5% fall in food store sales the strongest decline since December 2016.

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Ian Gilmartin, head of retail and wholesale at Barclays Corporate Banking, said: “It’s another fairly strong set of numbers from the ONS, with good year-on-year growth across most of the retail industry.

“The underlying story in these figures is positive, with retailers somehow finding a way to keep us spending.”

Ian Geddes, head of retail at Deloitte, said: “February’s milder temperatures would have been welcome news to high street retailers with raw memories of last year’s ‘Beast from the East’.

“2019 continues to see a combination of strong employment, low interest rates, falling inflation, and rising household incomes.”