Figures show surge in retail sales in February

UK retailers witnessed a rebound in sales last month, recovering from the slump recorded in the post-Christmas period, figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have revealed today (March 27th).

Following a revised drop of 2 per cent in January, sales volumes rebounded by 1.7 per cent in February. When compared to the same month in 2012, an annual gain of 3.7 per cent was recorded.

These results are much higher than the consensus estimates, which suggested monthly and year-on-year advances of just 0.5 per cent and 2.5 per cent respectively.

In addition, the report shows retail prices fell for the first time in four years last month, down by 0.2 per cent annually, with this drop attributed in the most part to a 4.4 per cent decline in fuel prices.

Earlier this week, the ONS revealed the UK inflation rate has fallen to 1.7 per cent, which is the lowest recorded since October 2009. A marginal increase in wage growth was also noted, narrowing the gap between the two to its smallest level in almost four years.

As with the figures published by the Confederation of British Industry yesterday, it was online sales that proved the driving force behind the better-than-anticipated results, with sales up by 2.4 per cent when compared to January and 12.4 per cent year-on-year.

Supermarket sales contributed more than half the growth in retail volumes, the ONS added. This is despite the fact that the grocery market continues to expand at its slowest pace since 2005.

Although household incomes have been squeezed in recent months, it is consumer purchases that have led the UK’s economic recovery over the past year. Analysts have indicated this is the result of improved access to credit and a recovery in the country’s housing market, boosting sentiment.

It has been suggested the March figures may well show a decline in sales, particularly when compared to the previous year, largely as a result of the late timing of Mother’s Day and Easter in 2014.