Retail sales up 3.7 per cent

Retail sales, by quantity, were 3.7 per cent higher in February 2014 than they were in February 2013, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The quantity of sales also grew by 1.7 per cent in the month from January 2014. Sales in the last three months were 1.6 per cent higher than in the previous three months.

The latest ONS data shows that:

  • spending in the retail industry in February was up 3.5 per cent year-on-year
  • spending increased 1.3 per cent from January to February 2014
  • the average weekly retail spend in February 2014 was £6.6 billion, up £200 million on the previous month
  • online sales increased 12.4 per cent in February 2014 compared with February 2013.

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, welcomed the news but remained cautious:

"While it is important that consumer spending remains an important part of total growth, our recovery must be more balanced. Unless exports and investment make a greater contribution there are risks that our recovery could stall."

In a separate survey of 106 retail firms, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) found that 36 per cent of respondents' sales volumes had grown in the year to March 2014, while 23 per cent had seen a fall. Optimism within the sector remains high, with 47 per cent expecting sales volumes to rise and only 10 per cent expecting a fall.

Barry Williams, from the CBI, commented on the survey findings:

"It's promising to see a run of positive growth rates on the high street, with sales up on a year ago for the fourth month in a row. We're hopeful that this will continue, but there are still signs that this needs to be a cautious hope."