Five questions answered on the rise in high street sales

Boost for the high street.

High Street shoppers. Photograph: Getty Images

Many high street shops have reported their best sales figures for over a year. We answer five questions on this much needed boost to the UK high street.

By how much have high street sales figures risen by?

Last month sales figures rose 3.9pc from a year earlier after a 0.4pc dip in January. The figures are based on actual weekly sales numbers from 70 retailers with 10,000 shops.

These retailers are considered to be in the mid-tier of high street chains and include clothing retailers Oasis, White Stuff, The White Company Cath Kidston and Thorntons chocolate makers.

What has spurred this boost to the high street?

It is thought Valentine’s Day and an extension on the January sales helped boost sales, with clothes and household goods traders benefiting especially. Plus, London Fashion Week and new spring lines also helped aided sales.

Isn’t this contrary to negative forecasts we were hearing earlier in the year?

Yes, in February the National Statistics Office reported a 0.6pc dip in January sales and store closures have been estimated to be happening at the rate of 20 per day, with only bigger chains able to ride the retail storm successfully and take advantage of closures of other big chains such as HMV, Comet and Jessops.

What are the experts saying?

Don Williams, BDO’s head of retail and wholesale business, told The Telegraph: “Retailers have given people a reason to spend by extending the January sales, and shoppers have responded extremely positively. The high street tends to dread February, but these results will be a fillip for retailers.”

He added: “There has been some remarkable changes in terms of innovation and a more detailed attention to stock control. It’s also been commendable to see a strategic approach to sales promotions rather than just cutting prices for the sake of it.”

What other news on the UK high street is there?

Other figures release today by Experian are also positive, reporting that the rate of insolvencies in January were the lowest since June 2007, with company failures down to 1,271 in a month,  representing 0.06pc of the total business population.

However, retail department store Debenhams has reported a 10 per cent drop in its share price after its sales were affected by snow. It experienced a 10 per cent sales fall in the period from 14 to 27 January, it added. Although, like-for-like sales in the 26 weeks to 2 March rose about 3 per cent year-on-year.