Valentine's Day no celebration for the high street

Valentine's Day failed to warm the hearts of high street retailers as the spending splurge around the event could not stave off an overall fall in sales for the month.

In-store sales fell 1.6% in February in a poor performance off a weak benchmark of a 2.2% drop for the same period last year, according to BDO's High Street Sales Tracker.

The figures are a further blow to the struggling high street which has just seen the collapse of two household names, Toys R Us and Maplin.

It is the fifth consecutive year that retailers have seen sales slide in February, with the decline reflecting the "extent of the challenges" facing the retail sector, the accountancy and business advisory firm said.

All three sector measures - lifestyle, fashion and homewares - saw falls, of 0.6%, 1.9% and 4.2% respectively, as discretionary spending continued to slow, compared with robust sales for essentials such as groceries.

The week of Valentine's Day offered no respite, with sales declining by 1.07%, although the low followed in the last week of the month when sales dropped by 2.42%, despite the same week the year before seeing Storm Doris battering the UK and hitting high street turnout.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO LLP, said: "With wage growth still running behind inflation, discretionary spend is on the slide. At the same time, the shift of spend to experiences from material goods is adding to the challenges faced by retailers.

"Despite tough trading conditions, retailers must continue to invest in adapting their business models to the new world of consumerism, where the customer experience is becoming ever more attractive to the consumer purse.

"Turning to the month ahead, the snow storms will have resulted in impossible trading conditions for physical shopping. Retailers will be focused on the product offering for Mother's Day and Easter to bring some relief to what has been a torrid start of retail trading in 2018."