PORTSMOUTH South MP Mike Hancock says people should be encouraged to spend locally as figures reveal a slump in national retail sales.
The gloomy figures, released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), show retail sales volumes fell by a larger-than-expected 0.8 per cent last month.
January’s growth was revised to 0.3 per cent from an earlier estimate of 0.9 per cent.
But Mr Hancock said he was ‘not surprised’ by the figures.
He said: ‘If there is less money to spend and people are more protective of their money, it is going to be more difficult.
‘It’s difficult to put a handle on what you can say to people, as we can’t force people to spend money they haven’t got, but we can encourage people to spend it in our city shops rather than in London or elsewhere.’
Rhoda Joseph, centre director at Cascades shopping centre, said February is the worst trading month of the year.
She said: ‘Portsmouth tends to buck the national trend however bad the reports are elsewhere.
‘Portsmouth people like to spend locally and we are not hugely dependent on visiting shoppers.
‘February was probably as bad as normal but not quite as bad as the figures last year.
‘This year we are only about 0.3 per cent down from February last year.’
Meanwhile Samuel Tombs, UK economist at Capital Economics, said the figures leave the recovery on the high street looking ‘a bit more fragile than it previously seemed’, and the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts a growth of 0.8 per cent for the year.