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Clothing and footwear sales grow in February

Clothing and footwear sales growth continued in February after the sector benefitted from posptoned January sales.

Total UK retail sales grew 2.2% on a like-for-like basis in February, according to the British Retail Consortium - KPMG Retail Sales Monitor. The sales were against soft comparisons in Feburary 2009 when snow and weak consumer confidence hit sales, leading to a 1.8% like-for-like drop. The figures also reflected a release in pent-up demand by shoppers following a snowy January this year.

Non-food sales rose 1.9% over the three months from December to February, a 4% rise on a like-for-like basis.

Clothing

Clothing sales in February benefitted from pent-up demand following a snowy January. Menswear, womenswear and kidswear all showed strong gains against sharp falls a year ago when trade was hit by snow. Winter coats, jackets, fleeces and knitwear sold well, particularly in clearance sales, often at the expense of margins. Warm accessories were strong and scarves benefitted from fashion trends.

The BRC said that spring ranges had a slow start in the cold weather but that newness and colour created interest for some. Jewellery and fashion accessories benefitted from Valentine’s Day.

Footwear

Sales growth from footwear was similar to that recorded in January and versus a small decline in February 2009. Men’s and kid’s footwear sales were slightly ahead of women’s footwear. The cold and wet weather drove sales of boots, including high-leg, ankle bootsdand Wellingtons, although often at marked down prices. Shoe-boots were strong, aided by fashion trends. Spring ranges were, once again, slow due to the cold weather.

Department stores

The BRC said that for many department stores February was a better month than January, again driven by the return of customers following the wintry January. Gains in the first half of the month were flattered by soft comparatives from the snow a year earlier.

Internet and mail order

Internet and mail order sales rose 15.5% during February on last year, a slight increase on January and up on the same month a year ago. Some of the growth was generated by sales held over from January, particularly where catalogues were late reaching customers.

‘Results not that strong’

Despite the sales growth seen in all retail categories BRC director general Stephen Robertson warned: “Despite appearances, these results are not that strong.

“The growth is compared with very weak figures a year ago when February saw the worst of last winter’s weather and this February’s performance was helped by sales postponed from January – particularly sales of non-food items such as homewares and fashion.”

He added: “Consumer confidence is certainly up on this time last year but, with unemployment rising again, spending plans are falling. When the weather-related distortions are stripped away, it’s clear customers are still cautious.”

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