British Shoppers Start to Focus on Essentials

(Bloomberg) -- Want the lowdown on European markets? In your inbox before the open, every day. Sign up here.

British consumers reined in their spending last month as anxiety over Brexit reached fever pitch, according to a survey published Tuesday.

The value of retail sales rose just 0.5 percent compared with February last year and were down 0.1 percent on a same-store basis, the report from the British Retail Consortium and KPMG showed.

The survey was carried out between Jan. 27 and Feb. 23 as fears mounted that Britain was course to leave the European Union without a transition agreement. BRC Chief Executive Helen Dickinson said that with consumers “increasingly aware of the risk of a no-deal Brexit, it is likely that uncertainty has driven this cautious approach.”

The worse-than-predicted performance hit retailers across the board as shoppers focused on essential items. Furniture sales suffered as unseasonably warm weather shifted spending away from indoor items and food saw only “modest” growth. A fifth of shoppers plan to save on their grocery bills over the coming year.

Average like-for-like sales growth between December and February was just 0.3 percent, with non-food stores faring the worst, the survey found.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.