Retail sales slipped in February as lingering Brexit uncertainty dented consumer spending. 

Like-for-likes across the sector dipped 0.1% in the four weeks to February 23, according to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor. That was compared with a 0.6% uplift during the same period a year ago. 

Total sales increased 0.5%, but that marked a slowdown on the three-month and 12-month averages of 0.9% and 1.2% respectively.   

In-store sales of non-food items fell 3.1% on a like-for like basis and 2.8% on a total basis. The total sales decline was steeper than the 12-month average of 2.4%. 

Food sales also fell 1.3% in like-for-like terms, but increased 2.4% on a total basis. 

Online sales of non-food products grew 5.4% in February, but that represented a marked slowdown on the 6.4% increase registered in the same month last year. Ecommerce growth also came in below the three-month and 12-month averages of 5.6% and 6.9% respectively.

Across the wider three-month period to February 23, non-food sales dropped 0.6% on a like-for-like basis, while like-for-likes in food climbed 1.3%. 

KPMG UK head of retail Paul Martin said the sales figures showed that “continuing political and economic uncertainties are beginning to notably affect shoppers’ spending habits”.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson added: “Uncertainty surrounding the UK’s imminent exit from the European Union has hit consumer spending.

“While real incomes have started to rise over the past year, shoppers have been reluctant to spend this February, holding back growth.”

Dickinson urged the Government to take a no-deal Brexit “off the table” in order to “reassure” consumers and retailers. She added: “With consumers increasingly aware of the risk of a no deal Brexit, it is likely that uncertainty has driven this cautious approach to retail spending.

“If government wishes to reassure both the public and businesses, they should ensure a chaotic no deal – which would lead to higher costs, higher prices, and less choice for consumers – is taken off the table with immediate effect.”