May 21, 2021
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April UK retail sales leap, led by fashion

May 21, 2021

What a bounce-back! UK retail sales volumes grew sharply last month as non-essential stores in England and Wales reopened mid-month and Scotland joined them in the closing days of April. Non-food stores surged and clothing had a very good time of it.

Photo: Tim Douglas/Pexels

The Office for National Statistics on Friday said the country saw a month-on-month retail sales increase of 9.2% both by volume and value. Non-food stores provided the largest contribution, boosted by a 69.4%volume rise in clothing store sales.

It was no surprise that all retail sectors reported a fall in their proportions of online sales as physical stores reopened during the month. That meant the total proportion of sales online decreased to 30% in April from 34.7% in March. But that 30% is still a very high number, although it was been helped by the fact that lockdown easing didn’t start until later in April. It will be interesting to see where that number sits for May.

Overall in April, the volume of retail sales was up 10.6% compared to February 2020, which was the final month before the pandemic started to completely skew the figures. Retail values rose 9.9% on that basis.

As mentioned, clothing stores had a good month, although compared to February 2020, they were still down — but only by 0.4%. Department stores rose 4.7% month-on-month and 7.6% compared to February 2020.

Looking at online retail, textile, clothing and footwear e-stores saw their sales falling 6.3% month-on-month but rising 83.6% year-on-year. The ONS offered a year-on-year comparison here rather than one against February 2020 given that e-sales continued during the pandemic. Clearly, consumers weren’t in the mood to buy fashion last April as the shock of the lockdown was still new. But this year, they seem to be embracing the return to normality.

Online department store sales fell 1.6% year-on-year and 22.4% month-on-month.

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