• February 2012 retail sales volumes: down 0.8% on the month, up 1.0% on the year
Commenting on the retail sales figures for February 2012 published today by the ONS, David Kern, Chief Economist at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:“A fall in sales in February was widely expected following the relatively strong figures seen in December and January. The poor weather in the first week of the month could have hindered the retail market, so these figures should not cause undue concern. Longer-term comparisons show that while the growth in sales remains in positive territory, the pace of expansion is modest. The value of sales has risen by more than 3% over the past year, which is mainly due to inflation. If hikes in energy and food prices persist, this could create new obstacles to a sustained recovery in retail trade and in consumer spending in general.
“While there were some measures to support growth announced in the Budget, more must be done. It is important that retail sales continue to grow over the next year, but we cannot rely on consumer spending if we are to secure long-term growth in the economy. Increasing net exports and business investment remain crucial to driving the recovery in the months and years ahead. While sticking to its deficit reduction plan, the government will have to do more to reallocate priorities within the overall spending envelope.”