January sales and the belated arrival of cold weather put Britain's retail sector back on track after a difficult end to 2015 as customers dipped into their pockets again, figures released on Monday (15 February) showed.
According to data published by the British Retail Consortium and Springboard (BRC), retail sales in January rose 1.2% year-on-year, reverting December's 2.2% decline as all the three main kinds of retail destination – high street retailers, retail parks and out-of-town centres – saw the number of customers increase for the first time in almost five years.
High streets in Britain saw a 0.2% increase in footfall compared with the corresponding period in 2015 and up from the 4% drop registered in December, while the number of customers in retail parks grew 5.2%, comfortably above the three-month average of 3% and higher than the 2.1% increase recorded in December.
"The improvement in shopper footfall witnessed in January provided a timely and welcome fillip to retailers at the start of the year, with retail parks once again recording a stellar performance", said Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive.
Last month, a report from the Office for National Statistics showed retail sales suffered their biggest monthly drop in more than a year in December 2015, as unusually warm weather dented sales at the majority of non-food retailers, as consumers stayed away from winter clothes.
On a month-on-month basis, retail sales fell 1%, the largest monthly decline since September 2014, compared with analysts' expectations for a 0.3% decline and a downwardly revised 1.73% advance in the previous month.
However, the improved performance in January was good news for British retailers, according to Diane Wehrle , marketing and insights director at Springboard.
"The increase in footfall across all retail destination types, the first since December 2011, alongside the rise in spending in January, finally demonstrates what is well known – that bricks and mortar shopping environments are still important to consumers," she said.