UK retail sales volumes rise modestly in February as lockdown continues

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LONDON, March 26 (Xinhua) — Britain’s retail sales volumes partly recovered in February with an increase of 2.1 percent when compared with the 8.2 percent fall seen in January, but sales were still down by 3.7 percent on a year earlier before the COVID-19 pandemic, the British Office for National Statistics (ONS) said Friday.

Non-food stores provided the largest positive contribution to the monthly growth in February sales volumes, aided by strong increases of 16.2 percent and 16.1 percent in department stores and household goods stores respectively, said the ONS.

Howard Archer, chief economic advisor to the EY ITEM Club, an economics forecasting group in Britain, said it marked “a modest rebound” of retail sales in February after an 8.2 percent fall in January when lockdown measures were brought back in.

Meanwhile, Kieran Tompkins, an economist at the London-based economic analysis firm Capital Economics, said “the fairly modest rise in retail sales volumes in February affirmed that the third COVID-19 lockdown has been tough for retailers, keeping sales suppressed following the plunge in January.”

Notably, the proportion spent online increased to 36.1 percent in February, the highest on record, when compared with 35.2 percent in January and 20.0 percent reported in February 2020, said the ONS.

Archer said the modest bounce in retails was helped by online sales, adding “it is evident that the pandemic-related restrictions on non-essential stores has accelerated an already underlying trend for online sales rising.”

For Tompkins, the performance in the sector will change “once non-essential retailers open in mid-April, which should help the economy begin to bounce back.”

On Feb. 22, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his four-step “roadmap” exiting the lockdown, the third of its kind since the start of the pandemic.

In the second step — no earlier than April 12 — all shops will be allowed to open, along with close-contact services, including hairdressers and beauty salons. Restaurants and pubs will also be allowed to serve food and alcohol to customers sitting outdoors. All COVID-19 restrictions in England are expected to be removed by mid-June.

Other parts of Britain, including Wales and Norther Ireland, have also unveiled plans to ease the restrictions.

To bring life back to normal, countries such as Britain, China, Germany, Russia and the United States have been racing against time to roll out coronavirus vaccines. Enditem

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