Covering the five weeks 30 August – 3 October 2020

We have replaced the three month averages with 6 month averages as this provides a picture of how retailers have fared over the pandemic.

  • On a Total basis, sales increased by 5.6% in September, against a decline of 0.6% in September 2019*, It is above the 6-month average decline of 1.1% and the 12m average decline of 1.0%. This is the best growth since December 2009, excluding Easter distortions.
  • In September, UK retail sales increased 6.1% on a Like-for-like basis from September 2019, when they had decreased 1.3% from the preceding year*.
  • Over the three months to September, In-Store sales of Non-Food items declined 12.3% on a Total and 9.5% on a Like-for-like basis. This is better than the 6-month and 12-month Total average declines of 29.6% and 18.8% respectively. For September, the like-for-like excluding temporarily closed stores remained in decline.
  • Over the three months to September, Food sales increased 5.1% on a Like-for-like basis and 5.6% on a Total basis. This is higher than the 12-month Total average growth of 3.8%. For the month of September, Food was in growth year-on-year.
  • Over the three-months to September, Non-Food retail sales increased by 5.2% on a like-for-like basis and 3.2% on a Total basis. This is above the 12-month Total average decline of 5.0%. For the month of September, Non-Food was in growth year-on-year.
  • Online Non-Food sales increased by 36.7% in September, against a growth of 3.5% in September 2019*. This is below the 3-mth average of 39.7% but above the 12-mth average of 26.3%.
  • Non-Food Online penetration rate increased from 30.8% in September 2019 to 40.1% this September.

* Note 2020 is a 53-week year in the ONS calendar: as a result of the extra week in January 2020, the comparable 2019 performances cited here may differ from those published last year, due to the one-week shift in the comparison.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive | British Retail Consortium
“September saw a big improvement in retail sales growth, however sales over the last six months are still down on the previous year. Tighter coronavirus restrictions have continued to hold back clothing and footwear, particularly as the Government further restricts social events. With office workers still at home for foreseeable future, the sales of electronics, household goods and home office products have remained high. September sales have also given retailers early signs that consumers are starting their Christmas shopping earlier this year, which retailers are encouraging their customers to do in order to manage demand at Christmas and keep people safe. However, store-based sales, excluding food are still in double digit decline.”

“The industry is beginning to recover, however, forced store or warehouse closures during any future lockdowns could put paid to this progress. Retailers have invested hundreds of millions in making their premises Covid-secure, with perspex screens, social distancing, additional staff and hygiene measures. The industry also provides essential employment for three million workers in the UK and is already helping to contribute to the economic recovery.”

Paul Martin, UK Head of Retail | KPMG
“The resilience of British retailers has been nothing shy of remarkable in recent months, with 6.1% like-for-like growth in September serving to reinforce that.

“That said, this month’s uptick is against the woeful performance recorded in September 2019 and so caution remains vital. Last year, the prospect of a no-deal Brexit loomed over purchasing decisions dampening demand, but now that same prospect is accompanied by the recent resurgence of COVID-19 numbers. Combined, these factors could have a significant impact on retail growth over the next months.

“Looking at the performance of specific retail categories, it’s clear that ‘Back to School’ activity gave fashion and footwear retailers a much-needed boost from lacklustre performance. Elsewhere though the focus remains on home-related items, including household appliances, furniture and technology. Online sales have eased slightly, but it’s clear that the convenience of the channel is so well engrained into the consumer’s psyche now and is therefore here to stay.

“As we enter the all-important ‘golden quarter’ – when many retailers make the majority of their annual revenue – the fight for survival couldn’t be more intense. Close attention has to be paid to how players choose to tackle key events, like Black Friday, within a consumer landscape that has changed entirely.”  

Food & Drink sector performance | Susan Barratt, CEO | IGD
“Food and grocery sales picked up again in September following a relative slowdown in August. The end of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme combined with local lockdowns, has resulted in shoppers increasing their spend in retail. Furthermore, late September has seen some stockpiling as shoppers react to rising COVID-19 cases and possible further restrictions, although this is far from the level of panic buying experienced in March.

“Speculation concerning further lockdown measures and a possible no deal EU exit is leading to uncertainty among shoppers, with IGD’s Shopper Confidence Index remaining low but stable. Confidence continues to be lower among those aged 18-24 years old, a group that is traditionally more impacted during a recession. Local lockdowns are also denting confidence among shoppers in the West Midlands and Wales.”