London's retailers bounce back after January 'blip'

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Central London’s shops enjoyed a powerful rebound in underlying sales last month after January’s snow-affected trading “blip”, but retailers outside the capital continue to find life much tougher.

Retailers in London posted a 9.9 per surge in like-for-like sales – on stores open more than one year – in February, as the weak pound again attracted shoppers from Western Europe, China and the Middle East, according to the British Retail Consortium-KPMG monthly survey. But shops in the rest of the UK grew underlying by a more modest 2.2 per cent last month, further highlighting the tough start to the year for the sector.

Stephen Robertson, the director general of the BRC, said: “This is a strong bounce back for sales after winter weather put many people off shopping in January. London sales growth is back to rates more typical of late 2009, confirming that January’s poor performance was a snow-induced blip.”

The retail sales surge in the capital came despite shops being up against buoyant underlying sales growth of 5.8 per cent in February 2009.

Food sales slowed last month, partly the result of shoppers stock piling during the snow and icy weather of January. Homeware retailers delivered an improved performance and clothing and footwear chain sales were boosted by the cold weather and extended discounts.

The number of visitors to central London’s shops increased in February, compared to January, but footfall was still 3.3 per cent lower than the same month last year.

While underlying retail sales in London rose by 3.4 per cent in January, it was the worst performance for the month in five years.