Daily Express

Slow growth in UK retail sales

- By David Shand

SHOPPERS stopped splashing the cash in February as UK retail sales stalled to cast further doubts over growth prospects.

After a strong January boosted by bargain- hunting, like- for- like sales edged up by just 0.1 per cent last month compared with the previous year.

Consumers spent less on fashions, food and shoes, with growth mostly driven by furniture and homeware purchases, says the British Retail Consortium.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson, pictured, said: “February’s slowdown was noticeable across all product categories bar stationery and health and beauty.

“This slow growth reflects the increasing pressure the industry is under. With the Budget due this month, we encourage the Government to address the cumulative burden that retailers face, enabling growth and protecting jobs and communitie­s.”

The BRC has warned that nearly one million jobs could be lost in the retail sector over the next decade as shops close and firms struggle to meet higher wage bills and taxes.

But the shorter- term jobs outlook is more positive for retail, claims recruitmen­t firm Manpower-Group, which said hiring is at its healthiest since 2007. Manpower’s James Hick said: “Retail has remained very confident, slightly above the national average.

“Longer- term there is no doubt that with artifi cial intelligen­ce there will be a move to reduce the numbers very considerab­ly at the front of store and in the supply chain. The removal of those jobs increases the roles in technology.”

Manpower said the overall picture on hiring intentions in the UK was the strongest for nearly a decade but warned employers could face a shortage of talent if Britain votes to leave the European Union.

Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight, said the weak BRC sales data would fuel concern that economic growth is “stuttering appreciabl­y”, after last week’s gloomy surveys across services, manufactur­ing and constructi­on. Meanwhile, the number of “bricks and mortar”, stores selling music, video and games products has hit a record high of 14,800, says the Entertainm­ent Retailers Associatio­n. This was driven by a big rise in general retailers adding small ranges of entertainm­ent products. Physical stores accounted for 28.2 per cent of sales in 2015 and the internet 71.8 per cent.

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