Retail sales jump in February

British retail sales jumped in February as prices rose at their smallest year-on-year rate since January last year, figures show.

Retail sales volumes rose 0.8% on January, driven mostly by supermarkets, vehicle fuel and online shopping, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Non-food retailers, which include department stores and clothes shops, suffered a fall in sales.

However the three-month figure to February, which smooths out monthly volatility, shows sales fell by 0.4% after poor sales in December and January.

The figures show retail prices rose in February by 2.5% year-on-year, the smallest increase since January 2017.

Compared with a year earlier, the ONS said February retail sales were up 1.5% amid expectations of a 1.3% rise.

ONS senior statistician Rhian Murphy said: "Retail sales did grow in February, with increases seen in food, non-store and fuel, but this followed two months of declines in these sectors.

"However, the underlying three-month picture is one of falling sales, mainly due to strong declines across all sectors in December.

"Store prices continue to rise across all store types, but at a lower rate than the previous month due to a slowdown in price growth, though clothing and household goods stores continued to see stronger price rises."

Ben Brettell, senior economist at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: "UK retail sales jumped 0.8% in February after falling 0.2% in January's disappointing data.

"Economists had expected a smaller rise of 0.4%.

"But the champagne remains on ice for now. The monthly numbers are always volatile and the underlying trend is still one of weakness.

"There's also a risk of further disappointment in March, with the Beast from the East bringing economic disruption and keeping consumers at home."

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