UK retail sales flat in February

There was zero growth for UK retail sales in February as shoppers were put off by heavy rainfall and cost-of-living pressures.

February’s flat sales followed a record fall of 3.3% in December and a rebound in January with an increase of 3.6%.

Clothing and department store sales increased last month with the launch of new collections, but this was offset by falling sales of food, fuel and household goods, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

This February was one of the wettest on record, with the south of England seeing more than twice the level of average rainfall.

“Many shops told us that the wet weather hit in-store sales, with online instead seeing a boost,” said Heather Bovill, deputy director for surveys and economic indicators at the ONS.

Retail sales were down 0.4% over the year and remained 1.3% below the pre-pandemic level in February 2020.

Separate data released on Friday showed that UK consumer confidence held steady in March, while people’s sentiment about their own personal finances improved.

“The improved Personal Finance measure (next 12 months) at +2 is encouraging because it’s the first positive and the highest score since December 2021,” said Joe Staton, client strategy director at market research firm GfK.