High street sales drop 1.7% year-on-year for February

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High street sales have fallen after a strong start to the year as full-price spring lines deterred consumers accustomed to months of heavy discounting.

Retailers suffered a 1.7% fall in year-on-year sales for February, the first negative growth for the month since 2012, according to BDO's monthly High Street Sales Tracker.

The lifestyle sector remained strong with sales up by 0.8% but fashion sales declined with a year-on-year fall of 2.9% while homewares sales fell by 0.5%.

Non-store sales rose by 18.3% compared with the same period last year.

BDO said February proved a difficult month for fashion retailers in recent years, and this year's figures were no exception.

While the overall picture for January was positive, sales dropped off as soon as the discounting season ended and retBailers began to re-stock with full-price spring lines.

BDO LLP head of retail and wholesale Sophie Michael said: "Low consumer confidence, a weak pound and the forthcoming introduction of the National Living Wage means retailers are facing an even more challenging period.

"After a strong start to the year, primarily driven by the sales period, retailers have returned to negative like-for-like revenue growth.

"The canny consumer continues to shop for bargains. Retailers have to find ways of enticing the customer back into store during full price periods through a rich product mix and the right customer experience."

High Streets Minister Marcus Jones said: "This Government is providing real support for the high street with a £1.4bn package of support for small businesses, sensible planning changes and new measures to make parking in town centres easier.

"Recent data shows year-on-year retail sales have been increasing for 33 months in a row and the national vacancy rate is at its lowest level since December 2009."