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PwC comments on February 2022 ONS retail sales figures

25 Mar 2022

Commenting on the Office of National Statistics retail sales figures for February 2022

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said: 

“No surprise in the slight 0.3% headline decline in retail sales volumes in February, with high street footfall impacted by the series of storms over half term. In pound terms, retail sales value, excluding fuel, is still almost 10% higher than before the pandemic, showing that it to be one of the most resilient sectors over the last two years, with shoppers still keen to spend their lockdown savings.

“And despite storms Dudley and Eunice, consumers have also been returning to high streets, with online sales at their lowest level since before the pandemic. Just 28% of retail sales were online last month, compared with 38% this time last year, albeit at the height of the third lockdown. Online sales fell across almost every category of retail against the previous month, suggesting that more shoppers are returning to their pre-pandemic habits.

“However, despite the strong recovery by the retail sector over the last year, there are already signs that the cost-of-living crisis is hitting confidence. Almost all of the slowdown in sales in February was accounted for by a decline in non-grocery sales. This week’s inflation figures saw a sharp increase in food prices which will inevitably eat into consumers’ ability to spend on discretionary items going forward. So February’s bump up in fashion sales as shoppers looked for new outfits to go back to the office may not last. 

“As Britons are forecast to face the largest fall in disposable income in recent times, and with limited targeted help from the Chancellor in the recent Spring Statement, retailers’ annus horribilis may yet be ahead of them.”

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