UK retail sales in surprise upturn but fashion still struggles

Well here’s something unexpected. UK retail sales grew more than predicted last month with the official figures from the Office for National Statistics showing the volume of goods purchased was up 0.8% month-on-month.


UK fashion struggled last month and despite discounts, prices still rose overall


And year-on-year sales rose 1.5%, which is encouraging after a general slowdown had begun following the good 3.3% rise in February 2017. 

But with the ONS saying said it saw rises “across all main sectors except non-food stores” the good news doesn’t seem to have helped the fashion sector and consumers continued to prioritise essentials last month.

By value, February 2018 sales rose 3.9% year-on-year and 0.8% month-on-month, although much of the annual figure would have been accounted for by inflation. And it’s worth noting that while inflation is affecting all areas, clothing and household goods stores were the only sectors to show continuing noticeable price inflation. In fact, clothing prices rose more than 3.5% last month, even though many other sectors saw prices becoming more stable.

As the non-food sales fall and the inflation issue both suggest, clearly everything in the garden isn’t rosy for the fashion sector and UK stores are still struggling. The usually-buoyant Ted Baker saying on the same day as these figures came out that current trading has been challenging further underlines that.

But on the upside (at least for those selling online), e-tail continued to rise and last month accounted for 17.2% of all retail compared to 15.6% a year ago. It grew 13.7% with non-food online sales up 13.4%. 

Average weekly spending online increased in February to £1.23 billion compared with the £1.19 billion reported in January. And department stores’ online sales rose 20.7%, while textile, clothing and footwear stores’s e-sales were up a not-quite-so-good (but still respectable) 8.3%.

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