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Retail sales sluggish in February

The British Retail Consortium has reported that retail like-for-like sales fell 0.3% in February from the same month a year earlier when sales fell 0.4%.

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Retail sales sluggish in February

Total retail sales rose 2.3% on the year after a 2.1% rise in January.

The BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor found that food sales picked up, while non-food sales weakened further in the month. The BRC said that food sales were helped by consumers stocking up during the cold snap in February, while sales of clothing, footwear and homewares weakened  due to "consumer caution".

Non-food non-store (internet, mail-order and phone) sales growth slowed further after picking up sharply in December. Sales were 9.9% up on a year ago, down from 11.3% in January and 18.5% in December and also below the 10.4% in February 2011.

"The reality of weak sales shows that a convincing revival remains illusory," BRC director general Stephen Robertson said in a statement. "Unemployment is expected to rise further, causing increased nervousness about job security, which is keeping confidence fragile. Any sense of improving optimism is not yet translating into more spending."

Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG, added: "Consumers remain reluctant to spend unless encouraged by promotional activity. Thus, while the market is still growing slightly in headline sales terms, profitability continues to be eroded through loss of margins."

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