UK Retail Analysis – February 2021


The British Retail Consortium has released its Retail Sale Monitor report for February 2021. The report was produced by the BRC in partnership with KPMG.

Headline Statistics 

  • In February, UK retail sales increased 9.5% on a Like-for-like basis from February 2020, when they had decreased 0.4% from the preceding year. In February, Like-for-like has been measured excluding temporarily closed stores but including Online sales.
  • On a Total basis, sales increased by 1.0% in February, against a growth of 0.1% in February 2020. This is above the 3-month average growth of 0.6% and the 12-month average decline of 0.3%.
  • Over the three months to February, In-Store sales of Non-Food items declined 38.9% on a Total and 21.4% on a Like-for-like basis. This is better than the 12-month Total average decline of 31.4%. For February, the like-for-like excluding temporarily closed stores remained in decline.
  • Over the three months to February, Food sales increased 7.6% on a Like-for-like basis and 7.9% on a Total basis. This is higher than the 12-month Total average growth of 6.6%. For the month of February, Food was in growth year-on-year.
  • Over the three-months to February, Non-Food retail sales increased by 6.6% on a like-for-like basis and declined 5.5% on a Total basis. This is above the 12-month Total average decline of 6.1%. For the month of February, Non-Food was in decline year-on-year.
  • Online Non-Food sales increased by 82.2% in February, against a growth of 3.6% in February 2020. This is above the 3-mth average of 68.1% and the 12-mth average of 49.1%. Non-Food Online penetration rate increased from 30.8% in February 2020 to 60.6% this February.


“February saw a return to growth after a disappointing start to the year. The Prime Minister’s roadmap to reopening prompted a burst in spending on non-food items, such as school uniforms. Furthermore, with another month of lockdown still to go, online sales were high, rewarding the retailers who have invested digitally. Couples staying home for Valentine’s Day found themselves splashing out at their local supermarket, benefitting food sales. Meanwhile, the continued closure of so-called ‘non-essential’ retail has meant that non-food instore sales remained significantly down, underlining the importance of a successful reopening in April.

“While the uptick in sales is encouraging, many retailers are concerned about the months ahead. Many retail businesses will be hoping that customers will return to shops, and have spent hundreds of millions on making their premises Covid-secure, but previous reopenings have shown that demand can be slow to come back. Government has a vital role to play in building up consumer confidence across the country to power the spending-led recovery.”

Paul Martin, UK head of retail, KPMG:

“After a bleak January sales performance and as the national lockdown continued, February saw the mildest of upturns for the retail sector, with just 1% year on year growth as high street stores across the country kept their doors closed.

“Consumers continued to nest down for further weeks at home, with food and drink, technology, furniture and home accessories recording strong growth both online and on the high street.  Online channels recorded strong sales across all categories, with some even registering triple figure growth, whilst high street clothing and health and beauty categories continue to suffer, with sales falling by double figures.

“With the Government’s roadmap out of lock down in place and the vaccine rollout moving at pace, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel for non-essential retailers.  High streets will be counting down the weeks until they can finally open their doors and hoping consumers swap their slippers for trainers as they start to hit the shops.  Although the Budget threw retailers a short term lifeline with the extension of Covid support packages until after the summer, conditions will continue to be incredibly challenging as they face subdued demand, thinner margins and rising logistics costs, alongside the accelerated structural changes to the sector. All hopes will be pinned on consumers wanting to break free from home to browse the stores that have been out of bounds for months.”

As member of the BRC, the MIA can share the full report with our members. If you would like to see the full report, please contact