Retail like-for-likes slipped 0.4% in February as non-food sales suffered their first quarterly decline for more than five years.
We break down the industry’s sales performance last month sector by sector.
Food – up
Grocery purchases were the main contributor to retail sales growth in February.
Valentine’s Day fell on a Tuesday compared to a weekend date last year, boosting sales and providing “the perfect opportunity” for shoppers to pick up a bottle of bubbly or a box of chocolates, according to the BRC-KPMG monitor.
The start of the Six Nations rugby tournament gave consumers another reason to splash out on food and drink, and pancakes delivered a further boost for Shrove Tuesday at the end of the month.
Fashion – down
February was “a rollercoaster month” for fashion retailers.
Some retailers started their sales early this year, while others chose to delay them until March, closer to Mother’s Day.
Retailers suggested that consumers were “being cautious” about their clothing spending, with the later timing of Mother’s Day acting as a further prompt for shoppers to delay their purchases.
The BRC said there were some “nice pockets” of growth in sectors including sportswear and fashionable brands.
Footwear – down
Footwear suffered its third consecutive month of sales decline in February, as performance was hindered by fewer schools than last year choosing the first of two possible half-term weeks.
Bad weather towards the end of the month was also “unfavourable” for businesses in this sector.
Clearance promotions dominated the month, particularly on boots, but even when retailers had sold off their cut-price stock, demand held firm.
As far as new ranges are concerned, high heels, pumps and sandals proved popular among shoppers.
Health and beauty – down
The performance of the health and beauty sector was “negatively distorted” last month by the late timing of Mother’s Day.
A fall in like-for-like sales in February was driven by beauty, for which Mother’s Day is the second biggest buying time after Christmas.
That resulted in sluggish sales of products such as fragrances and cosmetics.
Growth within health, driven by sales of vitamins, was not enough to offset beauty declines.
Furniture – up
Big ticket furniture items continued to show resilience in February, topping the growth rankings table.
Bedroom furniture performed best during the month, according to the BRC-KPMG data, with flat-pack items also selling strongly.
However, retailers warned of “a competitive market” in other sub-sectors, such as fitted furniture, oak cabinets and sofas – a fact that was underscored by a drop in GfK’s major purchases index from 10 points in January to five in February.
Home accessories – down
Home accessories was one of the categories most negatively distorted by the later timing of Mother’s Day this year.
Sales of cooking and dining items and other accessories fell in February, but the BRC-KPMG data suggested this was “likely to be offset” in March.
House textiles – up
In contrast to home accessories, home textiles was one of the few categories to register sales growth last month, climbing to second place in the growth rankings table.
Duvets, linen and winter bedding items all enjoyed good growth, but made-to-measure items, which tend to be more expensive, suffered amid a cautious outlook among consumers.
Toys and baby equipment – up
Toys enjoyed another good month in February, with its surge to fourth position in the growth rankings table driven by the success of Lego and nursery items.
Household appliances – down
The sector suffered a fourth consecutive month of sales decline and its worst performance since August 2015.
But the BRC-KPMG data suggested the decline was “more pronounced” in small household appliances, which also suffered from the later timing of Mother’s Day and a lack of promotional activity.
Jewellery and watches – down
Although jewellery and watches grew total revenues during February, sales fell on a like-for-like basis.
The category fell to fifth in the growth rankings on a month-by-month basis, but maintained its place at the top of the pile on a 12-monthly basis.
Other non-food – up
The other non-food sector, which includes categories including electricals, electronics, gaming and books, grew sales on a like-for-like basis but declined on a total basis – the fourth month in a row.
Mobile phones and wearable technology were the main drivers of growth in consumer electronics, but sales were disappointing elsewhere.
In terms of leisure goods, gaming was the star performer, while sales of physical books were also “healthy.”
Popular DVD releases during February, including Bridget Jones, Trolls and The Girl on a Train also aided sales.