February saw total retail sales increase by +1.0%, against a growth of +0.1% in February 2020, reports BRC-KPMG.

UK retail sales increased +9.5% YoY on a LFL basis. 

Online non-food sales increased by +82.2% YoY in February, with the non-food online penetration rate increasing from 30.8% in February 2020 to 60.6% this February.

The furniture category ranked 9th of 13 (3rd in February 2020), yet was 4th of 10 categories for online sales growth (the same as in February 2020).

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson OBE says: “February saw a return to growth after a disappointing start to the year. The Prime Minister’s roadmap to re-opening prompted a burst in spending on non-food items, such as school uniforms. Furthermore, with another month of lockdown still to go, online sales were high, rewarding the retailers who have invested digitally. Couples staying home for Valentine’s Day found themselves splashing out at their local supermarket, benefitting food sales. Meanwhile, the continued closure of so-called ‘non-essential’ retail has meant that non-food in-store sales remained significantly down, underlining the importance of a successful re-opening in April. 

“While the uptick in sales is encouraging, many retailers are concerned about the months ahead. Many retail businesses will be hoping that customers will return to shops, and have spent hundreds of millions on making their premises Covid-secure, but previous re-openings have shown that demand can be slow to come back. Government has a vital role to play in building up consumer confidence across the country to power the spending-led recovery.”

Paul Martin, UK head of retail, KPMG, adds: “After a bleak January sales performance and as the national lockdown continued, February saw the mildest of upturns for the retail sector, with just +1% YoY growth as high street stores across the country kept their doors closed.

“Consumers continued to nest down for further weeks at home, with food and drink, technology, furniture and home accessories recording strong growth, both online and on the high street. Online channels recorded strong sales across all categories, with some even registering triple-figure growth, whilst high street clothing and health and beauty categories continue to suffer, with sales falling by double figures.

“With the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown in place and the vaccine rollout moving at pace, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel for non-essential retailers. High streets will be counting down the weeks until they can finally open their doors and hoping consumers swap their slippers for trainers as they start to hit the shops. Although the Budget threw retailers a short-term lifeline with the extension of Covid support packages until after the summer, conditions will continue to be incredibly challenging as they face subdued demand, thinner margins and rising logistics costs, alongside the accelerated structural changes to the sector. All hopes will be pinned on consumers wanting to break free from home to browse the stores that have been out of bounds for months.”