February retail sales figures look bleak, warns business advisor

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Grant Thornton

Grant Thornton: February is notoriously dead month

Retailers will have welcomed an increase in sales in January but the indications for February look bleak, according to a leading retail advisor.

Commenting on the latest figures released today by the Office for National Statistics, which show 1.9% growth in the volume of retail sales in January 2011 compared to December 2010 and 5.3% compared with January 2010, Barry Knight, head of retail at Grant Thornton UK LLP, said: “The increase in sales in January provides some consolation for retailers after a difficult December, which was impacted by very poor weather conditions.

“However, this increase may be due more to post-Christmas discounting and promotions by retailers, as well as the rush in early January to beat the VAT increase than an actual increase in consumer spending on the high street.

“Like-for-like sales in January 2011 are up 5.3% compared to a year ago but, in real terms this is not great given retail sales figures seen at the same period last year were extremely poor.

“Having spoken to a number of retailers, it is clear the first two weeks of February have been very poor. However, February is a notoriously dead month for retailers and it will become clear at the March rent roll who the real sufferers of this downturn are.”