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UK retailers suffer in wettest February on record
05 March 2024

The wettest February on record led to a miserable month for retailers.

Total UK retail sales were up by just 1.1% year-on-year in February, against growth of 5.2% last February, according to the BRC (British Retail Consortium)-KPMG Retail sales monitor.

Food sales were up 6% year-on-year over the quarter, but even this was below the last February’s growth of 8.3%.

Meanwhile, non-food sales were down 2.5% year-on-year over the three months, against growth of 3.2% last February – steeper than the 12-month average decline of 0.9%.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: "Consumer demand was dampened by the wettest February on record, translating into a poor month of retail sales growth."


Linda Ellett, Head of Leisure and Retail Consumer Markets at KPMG UK, said: "As many households continue to adapt budgets to meet higher essential costs, including higher mortgage rates, consumer reluctance to get out there and start spending is likely to remain in the short term.

"With big increases in labour costs and business rates just weeks away, adding to an already stressed cost agenda for retailers, many will be pinning their hopes on some good news in the Chancellors’ Spring Budget this week to help kick-start a spending revival on the high street."

Separate figures from Barclays also suggest that the wet weather and events such as the Super Bowl and Bafta awards encouraged households to enjoy nights in front of the TV instead of going out in February.

Meanwhile, spending on public transport increased just 3.8% – the smallest rise since March 2021 – as wet and icy weather combined with industrial action caused train cancellations and delays across the country.

Karen Johnson, Head of retail at Barclays, said: "February’s wet weather meant Brits chose to spend more time indoors, resulting in a slowdown in high-street and hospitality spending.

"With Brits having reined in discretionary spending during the winter months, and as inflationary pressures begin to ease, retailers will be hopeful that the onset of warmer weather lifts spending – particularly if consumer confidence improves in the summer."

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