[LONDON] British retail spending kept shops busy in what is normally a quiet month in February, suggesting a plunge in inflation has given consumers a boost, an industry survey showed on Tuesday.
The British Retail Consortium said retail spending was 1.7 per cent higher last month than in February last year, speeding up a touch from a 1.6 per cent rise in January.
In February 2014, when bad weather added to the usual slowdown in shopping, sales rose 0.7 per cent.
The survey adds to other signs that Britain's consumers are feeling more confident after the main measure of inflation slowed to just 0.3 per cent in January and earnings rose more quickly late last year. "So far, 2015 has been positive for both retailers and consumers and it shows no signs yet of changing course," said BRC director general Helen Dickinson.
Retail spending on the BRC's like-for-like measure - which excludes new stores and more closely reflects how stores report sales to shareholders - rose 0.2 per cent on the year, the same pace of growth as January.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast growth of 0.4 per cent in the like-for-like measure.
David McCorquodale, at survey sponsor KPMG, said consumers were still not spending heavily in stores, despite the near-zero inflation, cheap oil prices and interest rates which remain at a record low. "It's surprising more consumers aren't treating themselves to a new pair of shoes, or curtains for the home," he said in a statement. "One suspects that restaurateurs, not retailers, are benefitting from the extra cash in consumers' pockets resulting from fuel price savings."