UK retail sales rise 2.1% in February

Retail sales rose 2.1% in February, recovering some ground from a steep fall in January.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said sales were still down by 3.7% on a year earlier, before the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Food and department stores benefitted from essential retailers remaining open, it said, though clothing shops continued to struggle.

Online sales continued to grow and hit a record 36.1% of all UK sales.

Jonathan Athow, ONS deputy national statistician for economic statistics said that despite national restrictions, “retail sales partially recovered from the hit they took in January” when they fell by 8.2%.

He said mixed stores, which were allowed to stay open as they sold some foodstuffs, had benefitted, with budget-end department stores increasing sales. 

Mr Athow said anecdotal evidence from retailers suggested people had been spending on home improvements and on outdoor furniture, as people prepared for lockdown easing, which will allow gatherings in gardens again.

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