Decline in food sales drags down sector for latest BRC results


Yet another decline in food sales left the UK’s retail sector with like-for-like sales up just 0.2 per cent in February, compared to the year before, as the supermarket price war continued to wreak havoc.

While shoppers flocked to pick up swimwear, sandals and holiday items to combat the British winter, the British Retail Consortium and KPMG retail sales monitor found sales were up just 1.7 per cent on a total basis, which is not adjusted for the effect of new store openings.

Valentine’s Day purchases of jewellery and beauty products helped move things along but it wasn’t enough to offset the continued fall in food sales for the last three months on a like-for-like basis. And it’s not as if last year’s figures were even hard to beat:

“Activity on the high street has settled into a monotonous equilibrium, with falling like-for-like food sales persistently wiping out any meaningful like-for-like growth the non-food sector manages to achieve. February’s figures are also against very weak comparables, when bad weather caused sales to stall last year,” said David McCorquodale, head of retail at the report’s co-authors, the consultancy KPMG.


McCorquodale went on to add that the wider economic recovery taking place across the UK now seems to be “bypassing the retail sector”, and said that he found it “surprising” that more consumers weren’t treating themselves in the light of extra disposable income and fuel price savings.

Director general Helen Dickinson attempted a more upbeat conclusion from the results, stating: “After the bustle of Christmas and the excitement of the January sales, February is usually a quiet month for retailers. So it’s heartening to see that retail sales continued to rise this month by close to 2% … Sales are up while prices fall, which means that retailers are continuing to work hard to provide original products that excite customers at the right price.”

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