British retail sales fall less than expected for February after a bumper performance the month before, but as Grace Pascoe reports, a few big names on the high street are finding that times are tough.
Ain't no sunshine for UK clothing retailers. Poor weather has delayed purchases of spring and summer apparel, dulling profits. High street retailer Next has concerns for 2016, saying profits could fall by 4.5 percent. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HANTEC MARKETS, MARKET ANALYST, RICHARD PERRY, SAYING: "You have got companies such as Sport's Direct coming out with a profit warning, you have got BHS under a lot pressure and also even today we had sort of quite a gloomy outlook for 2016 from Next." Despite weak clothing sales British consumer demand is still relatively robust. Retail sales falling only slightly - by 0.4 percent for February. Less than the feared 0.7 percent decline. But Britain's membership of the EU could cloud the picture. (SOUNDBITE) (English) HANTEC MARKETS, MARKET ANALYST, RICHARD PERRY, SAYING: "We've got Brexit and this is overhanging the economy and whether it sort of impacts on the lack of investment and that could obviously feed through into the retailers, yes." Consumer demand has driven economic growth in the UK over the past few years. Buoyed by record employment, modestly rising wages and near-zero inflation. And household consumption is forecast to rise by 2.75 percent this year according to the Bank of England. That's faster than the economy as a whole.