High street sales grim in February

High street shopping: February was a slow month for sales
High street shopping: February was a slow month for sales

Sales on the high street grew by just 0.3% in February, but should show signs of improvement in April, according to BDO's monthly High Street Sales Tracker.

The accountancy firm's figures follow sales made through retailers with a turnover of between £5m and £500m.

While fashion sales rose by 0.9%, non-fashion sales fell by 0.7% and homewares sales fell by 0.6%.

However, online sales rose by 33%, down from a high is 49% in January.

Don Williams, head of retail at BDO, said consumer demand had slowed, but February, with low temperatures and no public holidays, held little allure for shoppers.

He said April, with three public holidays, warmer temperatures and lighter evenings, could prove much better for the high street.

Further research from Verdict, conducted for Barclays, suggests that fashion's middle market will suffer this year, as the high end grows 30% to £8.6bn by 2014, and the value sector expands by 21% to £12bn.

But the middle-market, the preserve of the high street, will "feel the squeeze," according to Richard Lowe, head of retail and wholesale at Barclays Corporate.

He said consumers are willing to trade up to buy "statement" pieces, and with high street retailers, such as John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and Debenhams, moving upmarket, the sector is becoming more competitive.

Supermarkets are also moving into the budget end, with fashion icon Gok Wan now designing for Sainsbury's 'Tu' range.

Retailers such as Asos are moving aggressively into value-added proposition, with new retailers now available from the Asos site, and a new social network launched.

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