Shoppers splurge on the high street as prices plunge


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Consumers are hitting department stores and furniture shops to splurge the windfall from cheaper petrol and food, figures showed yesterday.

Retail sales volumes jumped by a much stronger than expected 0.7 per cent in February, while January’s sales were also revised higher, according to the Office for National Statistics.

On the high street, the strongest performers over the month were department stores, where sales rose up 1.7 per cent, while household goods also saw a 1.2 per cent rise. Internet sales rose 1.9 per cent. Including plunging prices at petrol stations, prices were 3.6 per cent lower than a year ago in February – the biggest annual fall since records began in 1997.

The spending surge comes as inflation over the month fell to a low of 0 per cent. That has given shoppers a real-terms pay boost, as wages across the country rose at an annual 1.8 per cent pace in the quarter to January.

Alan Clarke, an analyst at Scotiabank, said: “If you wanted a demonstration that low food and energy prices are good for consumer spending, then this is it. People are clearly not deferring – they are spending the windfall.”