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Published on June 8th, 2021 | by The GC Team

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May records strongest sales growth since start of pandemic

The reopening of hospitality & leisure helped to power the UK’s retail sales in May with pent-up demand for the instore shopping experience resulting in the strongest sales growth of the pandemic, according to the BRC and KPMG.

On a total basis, sales increased by 10.0% in May against a decline of 2.7% in pre-pandemic 2019.  This is above the 3-month (year-on-two-year) average growth of 8.5%.

Like-for-like sales jumped 23.7% compared with May 2019.

With much of retail suffering enforced temporary closures during 2020 due to the pandemic, the year-on-two-year measure provides the ability to make more meaningful comparisons.

Online sales were a major factor in the surging sales figures with non-food ecommerce sales climbing 39.1%.

Paul Martin, UK Head of Retail at KPMG, said: “Although some spend has migrated to high street, there was still high penetration of online spending in May, reinforcing the view that the pandemic has seen a step up in online activity as some consumers maintain their use of this channel out of habit and choice and some remain nervous about venturing back into stores.”

In the three months to the end of May, non-food sales overall were up 7.5% compared with the same period in 2019.  In-store sales of non-food items declined 16.7% on a total sales basis and increased 27.1% on a like-for-like sales basis.

“Retailers now face an interesting few months as they assess how they best entice their customers back to stores and what the right blend of offline and online will be as spending patterns settle in a post Covid world,” said KPMG’s Martin.

“With the prospect of the full lifting of Covid restrictions coming into force this month there will be increased competition for share of wallet as consumers focus on those leisure and hospitality activities that have been denied to them due to lockdown. 

“It is a summer that starts with cautious optimism for many retailers, who will be hoping that the continued success of the vaccine roll-out and an improving economy will offer scope to spark a big surge in consumer spending.”

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