High street recovers from dire January

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The high street enjoyed a rebound in sales last month after a record performance from electricals retailers, but the figures were flattered by the snow-affected dire trading in January.

The Office of National Statistics said that retail sales volumes rose by 2.1 per cent in February, which was the strongest monthly rise since May 2008. In value terms, which includes price movements, sales rose by 1.9 per cent.

The star performers were household goods stores, which posted a 11.2 per cent jump in sales in February – the biggest increase since 1988 – driven by electrical chains. Richard Lowe, the head of retail and wholesale at Barclays Corporate, said: "February's figures confirm that things are back on track for the retail sector."

But retailers were up against weak sales in January, when the snow kept shoppers at home. In fact, the ONS yesterday has revised down its 1.8 per cent decline for the month to a shocking 3 per cent fall – making it the worst January on record.

On an annual basis, retail sales volumes rose by 3.5 per cent in February, higher by 4.9 per cent in value terms, helped by poor weather in the same month last year.

But Mark McMenemy, the senior director at the consultancy Alvarez & Marsal, warned: "The ONS data does not mean the retail woes are over. It's too early to make that call. There is still a lot of nervousness about the UK recovery."

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