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Industry News

Published on June 19th, 2020 | by The GC Team

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Positive sign for retail as non-food stores add to growth

Retail sales volumes partly rebounded in May, with an increase of 12.0% compared with the record falls experienced in the previous month and non-food stores providing the largest positive contribution to growth

Data released today by the Office for National Statistics showed sales were still down by 13.1% on February before the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but a positive uplift of 23.7% in non-food stores – following a record fall of 41.7% in April 2020 – was recorded, as a number of garden centres and hardware stores were able to start trading again from mid-May.

With online shopping gaining ground since the start of the lockdown, sales in this sector rose to the highest proportion on record, 33.4%, during the month.

“With a third of all spending now being done online, bricks and mortar retailers have a mountain to climb to tempt shoppers back into physical stores,” said Sara Korchmaros, Chief Commercial Officer at the retail technology platform Recash.

“For all the excitement this week about the reopening of non-essential shops in England, the industry is racing to catch up with consumers’ changing tastes. Just because the high street is open, there’s no guarantee people will come, and a recent YouGov poll found half could stay away.”

Korchmaros added that the safety measures physical retailers have had to install to reopen stores hardly shout “come in and browse”.

“Lockdown has introduced millions more shoppers to the ease and safety of online browsing and May’s record-breaking shift to online sales is unlikely to be the high-water mark,” she added.

On a more positive note, Lee Lucas, Principal and CEO of the Fashion Retail Academy, said: “The queues we saw on high streets this week shows that many shoppers have missed the in-store experience and were keen to enjoy some retail therapy after months stuck at home. 

“Industry leaders used the past few months of closure to plan for social distancing, hygiene and incentives to attract shoppers back, and those plans have now been put into action with stores reopening all over the country.

“With shoppers demonstrating they are willing to return to physical stores, retailers need to make the most out of this situation and ensure this momentum continues.

“Proactive engagement with customers via digital channels about in-store offers and discounts, along with demonstrations of how they are enabling social distancing and keeping staff and shoppers safe, will be critical to encouraging return visits.” 

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