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Retail sales enjoy best quarterly growth in more than a quarter of a century

Written by on 12/07/2021

Sunshine, football and pent-up shopping demand have helped retailers enjoy their strongest quarter of growth for more than two decades, figures show.

Sales for the April-June period were 10.4% ahead of the same month in 2019 – with 2020 performance stripped out of comparisons because of the closure of shops during lockdowns.

It was the strongest quarterly pace of growth on records going back to 1995, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said, and comes after non-essential retailers reopened in April.

Shoppers on Regents Street, London, as England takes another step back towards normality with the further easing of lockdown restrictions. Picture date: Monday April 12, 2021.
Image: Lockdown restrictions are due to ease further next week

For June alone, sales were up by 13.1% on two years ago.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “The second quarter of 2021 saw exceptional growth as the gradual unlocking of the UK economy encouraged a release of pent-up demand built up over previous lockdowns.

“In June, while growth in food sales began to slow, non-food sales were bolstered by growing consumer confidence and the continued unleashing of consumer demand.

“With many people taking staycations, or cheaper UK-based holidays, many have found they have a little extra to spend at the shops, with strong growth in-store in June.

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“Fashion and footwear did well while the sun was out in the first half of June, while the start of Euro 2020 provided a boost for TVs, snack food and beer.”

The quarterly figures continued to show online sales enjoying double-digit increases though the pace has slowed.

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Clear demand for shops after year of online growth

Meanwhile high streets, devastated by lockdowns, showed signs of recovery.

In-store non-food sales were still behind pre-pandemic levels, but only by 0.1%.

For June alone, the BRC said, they showed strong growth.

Ms Dickinson said big challenges remained for retailers with city centres still afflicted by a lack of commuters and tourists.

The further easing of lockdown restrictions will also prove a key test, she added.

“Many customers are looking forward to a return to a more normal shopping experience, while others may be discouraged by the change in face covering rules,” Ms Dickinson said.

Separate credit and debit card data from Barclaycard showed consumer spending – which includes leisure activities as well as retail, rose by 11.1% in June compared to two years ago.

The figures showed spending on hotels, resorts and accommodation all grew for the first time since the pandemic began – attributed to people enjoying UK breaks.

Meanwhile, spending at pubs and bars rose 38.1% – the biggest increase since September 2020

 Sky News

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