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Industry News

Published on February 19th, 2021 | by The GC Team

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Retail sales figures show non-essential stores are essential to UK economy

Retail sales in the UK decreased by 8.2% in January in a slowdown caused by tighter nationwide coronavirus restrictions.

Data released by the Office for National Statistics show volume sales were 5.5% lower than before the pandemic in February 2020 but feedback from retailers suggested that while enforced closures affected sales, this was not to the same extent as witnessed in April 2020 (the first full month of restrictions on the retail sector) when total retail fell by 22.2% compared with the February level.

Anecdotal evidence suggested that during the current period of restrictions, improved online capability and click & collect purchases helped to lessen the impact. Hence, the proportion spent online soared to 35.2%, the highest on record.

Overall, the non-food sector has been the worst affected by the restrictions to non-essential retail during the coronavirus pandemic. Sales declined rapidly in March and April 2020, with consecutive monthly falls of 19.0% and 41.0% before six consecutive months of growth saw a return to the levels of sales observed before the pandemic.

November 2020 saw the reintroduction of restrictions in several parts of the country, leading to a monthly fall of 8.8% before a slight recovery again in December of 3.8% as restrictions were eased at the beginning of the month.

January 2021 has seen a steep decline of 24.4% as nationwide restrictions on non-essential retail were reintroduced. This decline however is not as severe as under the first national lockdown, the ONS said.

David Jinks, Head of Consumer Research at home delivery expert ParcelHero said the figures highlight the “ongoing devastation” lockdown is having on the High Street.

“Lockdown 3 shattered retailers’ hopes that traditional January sales would lead a High Street comeback.

“The figures show how essential supposedly ‘non-essential’ stores are to the UK economy. Lockdown 3 must be the ‘lockdown to end all lockdowns’ to ensure indie stores stand a chance of survival.”

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