(Bloomberg) -- Retail sales grew at their slowest pace in 18 months, with the industry blaming Britain’s rainy weather for keeping shoppers away.

Total sales rose 1.1% in February, compared with growth of 5.2% a year ago, according to a report by the British Retail Consortium released Tuesday. That figure, which covers Jan. 28 to Feb. 24, is not adjusted for inflation, which was 4% at the end of last year.

“Not even Valentine’s Day lifted customers out of the gloom,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive officer of the BRC. “Gifting products that typically sell well, like jewellery and watches, failed to deliver.”

The BRC called on Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt to lower any increase in business rates, a divisive property tax, when he delivers his Spring Budget on Wednesday. It said rates would increase by £400 million ($507 million) otherwise.

A separate report by Barclays, also published Tuesday, showed spending on non-essential items rose only 1.7% last month — the lowest growth since September 2022. 

“With Brits having reined in discretionary spending during the winter months, and as inflationary pressures begin to ease, retailers will be hopeful that the onset of warmer weather lifts spending,” said Karen Johnson, head of retail at the bank.

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