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UK retail sector feels more love as Valentine's Day boosts sales

Tue, 9th Mar 2021 05:02

(Alliance News) - UK retail sales grew in February, numbers from an industry body showed on Tuesday, as a tough start to the year for the sector was alleviated by Prime Minister Boris Johnson's roadmap to exit lockdown.

The British Retail Consortium said that putting the date of March 8 on the return of schools in England meant parents in their droves began shopping for uniform and supplies.

Total UK retail sales rose 1.0% annually in February, according to the BRC-KPMG monitor, following a 1.3% fall in January. In February 2020, total sales rose 0.1%.

Like-for-like sales were 9.5% yearly in February, topping January's 7.5% rise and the 0.4% fall a year earlier.

"February saw a return to growth after a disappointing start to the year. The prime minister's roadmap to reopening prompted a burst in spending on non-food items, such as school uniforms. Furthermore, with another month of lockdown still to go, online sales were high, rewarding the retailers who have invested digitally. Couples staying home for Valentine's Day found themselves splashing out at their local supermarket, benefiting food sales," BRC Chief Executive Helen Dickinson said.

In-store sales of non-food items were 39% lower annually in the three months to February. The 12-month average decline is 31%. Food sales were 7.9% higher over the same period.

Online non-food sales surged 82% yearly in February, topping the 12-month average jump of 49%.

Dickinson added: "While the uptick in sales is encouraging, many retailers are concerned about the months ahead. Many retail businesses will be hoping that customers will return to shops, and have spent hundreds of millions on making their premises Covid-secure, but previous reopenings have shown that demand can be slow to come back."

Johnson in February announced a four-stage plan could see England's coronavirus restrictions finally lifted by June 21. The non-essential retail sector will be able to lift shutters on April 12.

By Eric Cunha; ericcunha@alliancenews.com

Copyright 2021 Alliance News Limited. All Rights Reserved.

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