The value of retail sales rose 2.2% on a like-for-like basis last month over February 2009, when sales had dropped 1.8% owing to snow and consumer caution.
On a total basis, sales in February were up 4.5% against only 0.1% growth last February, according to the British Retail Consortium.
Non-food recovered, having been hit by January’s snow, but growth was often against larger declines a year ago. And non-food non-store sales – via the internet, mail order and phone – were 15.5% higher than a year ago and compared with 14.6% in January.
The figures will be welcomed by retailers after a poor start to the year. But the BRC warn against reading too much into the results.
BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: “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 went on: “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”.