High street retailers suffer worst February in a decade

High street retailers have suffered their worst February in a decade despite the warm weather and Valentine’s Day, figures show.

In-store sales were down 3.7% on February last year, according to BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker.

Valentine’s Day, the half-term holiday and unseasonably warm temperatures failed to improve the fortunes of bricks-and-mortar retailers, resulting in the worst February figures for store sales since 2009.

Lifestyle retailers suffered their worst February on record – a drop of 4.9% on last year – with Valentine’s Day failing to provide any of the expected uplift to the category.

In-store fashion sales also fell by 3.5%, marking the category’s worst February since 2009.

Even homeware sales, which saw marginal growth of 0.4%, were from a negative base of minus 4.2% last February.

BDO said the third week of the month gained no benefit from Valentine’s Day, while the final week of the month, which was the half-term holiday in many areas, saw sales down by 0.7%.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO LLP, said: “Consumer confidence is teetering on the precipice and shoppers are resisting unnecessary spending.

“Lifestyle, a category that would normally see a lift thanks to Valentine’s Day, suffered the worst monthly result since 2008. It’s clear that shoppers are exercising extreme caution.

“It has been a tough start to the year for the sector and retailers are continuing to fill headlines with poor performances.

“Brexit uncertainty is proving to have a disproportionate impact on discretionary spending and there’s an increasing sense of nervousness among retailers.”

The figures come as it was announced LK Bennett – a brand favoured by the Duchess of Cambridge – has collapsed into administration, putting around 500 jobs at risk.

It emerged last month the company had hired advisers to look at options for the business, including fresh investment or a full sale.

But the group will now be put into the hands of administrators, throwing the future of 39 stores, 37 concessions and around 500 employees into doubt.

Meanwhile, staff at the John Lewis Partnership will see their bonuses cut for the sixth consecutive year as the retail giant revealed a slump in annual profits.

The group said it will reduce the renowned bonus to 3% of annual salary, with 83,000 partners sharing a pot worth £44.7 million, down from £74 million the previous year.

The latest figure is down from 5% last year and marks the lowest bonus since 1953.

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