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Storms and coronavirus fears deal fresh blow to troubled UK high streets

By Henry Saker-Clark, PA City Reporter

High street sales have taken a battering from storms and coronavirus fears over the past month, according to new figures.

Like-for-like store sales slipped 0.9% in February, according to BDO’s latest High Street Sales Tracker.

The survey blamed storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge – as well as global fears over the coronavirus outbreak – for the decline, after sales had picked up in previous months.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: “Bad weather and concerning headlines contributed to an already difficult trading environment in February.

“The poor performance in non-store sales contributed further to a disastrous month for retail across the board.”

Sales away from the high street increased at a slower level than previous months, with growth slowing to 6% from 12.4% in the same month last year.

On the high street, lifestyle sales slid by 2.9% as the usually buoyant Valentine’s Day shopping spike failed to lift sales.

Sales of homewares also fell by 3.6% for the month, in the first negative result for in-store homeware since August 2019.

Elsewhere, fashion sales saw a marginal improvement of 0.3% in February.

Ms Michael added: “It’s clear that shoppers are still exercising extreme caution.

“While some of last year’s uncertainty dissipates, it seems it’s being replaced with increased volatility.

“As the news of the impact of coronavirus continues to spread, and Britain’s high streets take a hit from February’s extreme weather, many retailers will feel the impact of the higher costs needed to absorb the disruption within their supply chains.”