Responding to the latest ONS Retail Sales Index figures, which showed a 22.3% year-on-year increase in overall sales (non-seasonally adjusted retail sales excluding fuel: J3L2), Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said:
“The third month of rising sales will be welcomed by retailers who are still recovering from months of lockdown during which many were unable to open stores. The reopening of hospitality provided additional impetus for many of us to hit the streets, particularly as the summer weather begun to kick in. Retailers reported an increase in purchasing over browsing, suggesting shopping trips were becoming more purposeful. Furniture and floor covering sales continued to perform well, as consumers took the opportunity to try things in-store, while even clothing and footwear saw continued growth thanks to the warmer weather and easing of restrictions on meeting friends and relatives. Consumer confidence appears to be rising fast thanks to both the widespread vaccination and testing programme and the extensive measures take by retailers.
“Challenges remain. Many retailers built up considerable debt, including from rents, during the periods of lockdown, and will be relying on continued consumer demand to trade their way out. Those based in larger cities have also been hardest hit by the fall in footfall, as many city workers continue to work from home. The changes caused by the pandemic are being bolstered by a fundamental transformation in consumer behaviour which started long before Covid. Internet sales continued to rise, albeit at a reduced pace, supported by the massive investment in digital channels, logistics operations, and click-and-collect options, ensuring UK consumers continue to benefit from a world leading shopping experience whether they are in their homes or their high streets.”