Non-food retail sales, which includes the fashion and accessories categories, suffered in the three months to the end of February 2017, seeing their first quarterly decline since November 2011.
While the decline was marginal, only 0.4% on a like-for-like basis and 0.2% on a total basis, this is the first three-month decline in the non-food category since November 2011, dragging the 12-month total average growth to 0.6%, the lowest since May 2012.
According to data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, in-store sales were hardest hit down by 2.4% on a total basis and 2.6% on a like-for-like basis during the three month period while conversely online sales of non-food items increased by 7.7%.
During the month of February online sales of non-food product grow 0.8% versus a year earlier.
Helen Dickinson OBE chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said: “Overall growth was subdued in February driven by a continuation of the slowdown in non-food sales. This was marginally offset by slightly stronger growth in food sales.
“There was some negative distortion created by the later timing of Mother’s Day this year, which meant that some categories, notably women’s accessories and health and beauty, didn’t benefit from the build-up of gift purchases as they did last year. But looking beyond this distortion, the persistent weak sales performance of several non-food categories points to an undeniable trend of cautious spending on non- essential items.
“Tougher times are expected ahead. The impact of inflation on consumer spending will add further intensity to an already fiercely competitive environment in which the ability to adapt and innovate will be key to survival. Looking to the Budget this week, we hope to see a commitment from Government to lay a path to a truly sustainable business rates system that will give retailers the flexibility needed to invest and support their local communities.”