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Retail sales rebounded sharply in January as concerns over the Omicron Covid variant and associated restrictions eased.

The Office of National Statistics found that retail sales volumes rose by 1.9% in January 2022 following a plunge of 4% in December 2021 (which has been revised down from a fall of 3.7%).

Sales volumes were 3.6% above their pre-coronavirus February 2020 levels.

Notably, non-food stores sales volumes rose by 3.4% in January 2022 as home improvement sales volumes picked up with increased sales in household goods and garden centres. However, non-food sales volumes still remain 1.1% below their February 2020 levels.

Automotive fuel sales volumes also rose by 4.1% in January 2022 following a fall of 5% in December when increased home working and lower retail footfall reduced travel. Sales volumes in the category are now were 3.3% below their February 2020 levels.

However, food store sales volumes in January 2022 fell below pre-coronavirus levels for the first time as sales fell 2.3% and were 0.8% below where they were in February 2020.

Food sales volumes held up during the first year of the pandemic but have broadly fallen over the period since June 2021 as consumers diverted spending to services.

The ONS noted that demand for dining out had continued to strengthen and that feedback from the casual dining sector said demand was supported by home deliveries, which were in some cases more than 25% above pre-coronavirus levels.

The proportion of retail sales online also fell to 25.3% in January 2022, its lowest proportion since March 2020, continuing a broad downward trend since its peak in February 2021 of 36.5%.

Despite its downward trend, the percentage of retail sales made online was still higher than before the coronavirus pandemic (19.8% in February 2020).

Morning update

McBride has apppinted former P&G exec Regi Aalstad as a non-executive Director with effect from 14 March 2022.

Aalstad has held senior positions with Procter & Gamble in Europe, Asia, Middle East and Africa and also works as an advisor to private equity and to global strategy consultancies.

She previously held non-executive director positions at Telenor ASA, and Geberit AG and was the chair of an international NGO.

She will serve as a member of the nomination, remuneration and audit & risk committees.

Steve Hannam, senior independent non-executive director, having served nine years, will be stepping down from the board following the annual general meeting on 18 October 2022.

McBride chairman Jeff Nodland commented: “Regi brings extensive experience from the global fast moving consumer goods market. Her knowledge of the Asian and European markets, along with her strong board experience will be extremely beneficial to the Board. We are delighted to welcome Regi to McBride.

“I would like to take the opportunity to thank Steve for his wise counsel and guidance over the last nine years. Steve’s insight and contribution to Board discussions have been invaluable to the Board and the business, from which we will continue to benefit until the AGM. I wish him the very best for the future.”

On the markets this morning, the FTSE 100 is up 0.2% to 7,554.4pts.

Early risers include Bakkavor, up 4.3% to 126.1p, McColl’s, up 2.7% to 8p, and Reckitt Benckiser, up 2.2% to 6,289p.

Fallers include Devro, down 4.4% to 208p, Just Eat, down 3.5% to 3,115.5p and Ocado, down 3.2% to 1,316.5p.

Yesterday in the City

The FTSE 100 fell back 0.9% yesterday to 7,537.4pts.

Reckitt Benckiser bucked the wider trend, rising 5.9% to 6,152p on guidance suggesting it was confident it could recover margin in 2022 as its cold and flu remedy sales pick up.

Nestle was up 0.9% to CHF118.42 after posting strong annual sales growth, driven by volumes, but warning of higher prices to come as costs mount.

Ocado rose 1.3% to 1,360.5p on its deepening of its partnership with France’s Groupe Carrefour.

Elsewhere, fallers included WH Smith, down 4.4% to 1,578p, Hotel Chocolat, down 4.2% to 415p, SSP Group, down 3.6% to 286.5p, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, down 3.4% to €48.97, Naked Wines, down 3.3% to 437.5p, C&C Group, down 3% to 214p and Deliveroo, down 2.9% to 133.1p.

The day’s few risers included Virgin Wines, up 1.4% to 149.5p, PZ Cussons, up 0.7% to 204.5p, Finsbury Food Group, up 0.6% to 88.5p and Kerry Group, up 0.5% to €109.80.