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Retail Sales Continue Positive Trajectory

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The ONS has published retail sales data for the four-week period 5 July 2020 to 1 August 2020. 

  • In July 2020, retail sales volumes increased by 3.6% when compared with June, and are 3.0% above pre-pandemic levels in February 2020.

  • In July, the volume of food store sales and non-store retailing remained at high sales levels, despite monthly contractions in these sectors at negative 3.1% and 2.1% respectively.

  • In July, fuel sales continued to recover from low sales levels but were still 11.7% lower than February; recent analysis shows that car road traffic in July was around 17 percentage points lower compared with the first week in February, according to data from the Department for Transport.

  • Clothing store sales were the worst hit during the pandemic and volume sales in July remained 25.7% lower than February, even with a July 2020 monthly increase of 11.9% in this sector.

  • Online retail sales fell by 7.0% in July when compared with June, but the strong growth experienced over the pandemic has meant that sales are still 50.4% higher than February’s pre-pandemic levels.

Commenting on the Office of National Statistics Retail sales figures for July 2020, Kien Tan, Senior Retail Advisor at PwC UK, said:

“July’s retail sales continued the positive trajectory we saw in June, which was the first full month that all non-essential shops were open nationwide. In value terms, retail sales were 3.7% above this time last year, and more than 25% higher than three months ago during the middle of the lockdown.

Once again, consumers have shown a willingness to spend in stores, due to a combination of pent up demand and relatively resilient consumer confidence. The reopening of leisure facilities at the start of the month will also have contributed to increased footfall on Britain’s high streets, with the proportion of retail sales online dipping below 30% for the first time since the start of the lockdown.

However, not all parts of retail have shared in this success. While supermarkets, household goods stores and most speciality retail categories are now trading comfortably above pre-pandemic levels, fashion retailers are trading over 25% lower than before the lockdown. This reflects the lower demand for workwear, formalwear and special occasion outfits.

While two months of robust retail sales figures are good news for much of the high street, as the government furlough scheme comes to an end and unemployment rises, the question is whether this performance can be sustained for the rest of the year.

The seismic shift to online shopping and reduced demand for fashion certainly see no sign of reversing in the short term.”

Source : ONS and PwC

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21 August 2020

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Thank you for the excellent presentation that you gave at Woodbury Park on Thursday morning. It was very interesting and thought-provoking for our Retail members. The feedback has been excellent.

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Martin Elliott. Chief Executive - Home Hardware.
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