Britain’s economy flatlines in February as fashion indies remain optimistic for spring

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The UK’s economy plateaued at 0.0 per cent in February as the country grappled with high energy bills, public sector strikes and a cost of living crisis.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimate monthly real gross domestic product (GDP) flatlined in February – despite 1.2 per cent growth in retail trade. It followed growth of 0.4 per cent in January as the UK’s recovery to pre-pandemic levels remained slower than that of any other G7 economy.   

In the three months to February 2023, GDP grew by 0.1 per cent overall.

Commenting on retailing in the current economic climate, Shirley Leader, director of Petersfield-based womenswear boutique Velvet & Rose, says: “We are optimistically waiting for the change in weather to see how the business will fare this season. We have had a steady start to 2023, having had our best year to date in 2022. Customers have been wary and business has been tough at times, mainly driven by a prolonged winter and the cost of living crisis.

“In the womenswear sector, it is always tough as you buy in lots of stock and have to sell it before you get the next season’s drop. However, we have made some changes to the way we buy and we hope that this will pay off this season. Many customers will be going on holiday and attending special events such as weddings and the races so we hope that they will continue to shop with us. It is an important season for us and, if we are successful, it will set us up for the rest of 2023.”

Jenny Blyth, owner of London-based Storm In A Teacup Gifts, adds: “I thought our worst business year was behind us but sadly it seems I was wrong. With inflation still hitting hard, my customers are worrying more than ever and their ability to buy my products is suffering as a result. One customer told me yesterday that their gas and electric bills have gone from £130 a month to £1,000 for two months. That’s for a one-bedroom flat. It’s no surprise people are struggling to support small businesses like mine. The only positive I can see right now is that the winter months are nearly behind us, which means I no longer have to choose between heat or eat. Now it’s just eat or survive.”

GDP is a measure of the size and health of a country’s economy over a period of time and is also used to compare the size of different economies.

To calculate GDP, the ONS collects data from thousands of UK firms and adds up the total values of goods and services produced, the population’s income or what everyone in the country has spent.

The UK is currently the sixth largest national economy in the world behind the United States, China, Japan, Germany and India.