Clothing sales surge by 69% as online sales decline

UK retail sales volumes jumped by 9.2 per cent in April, largely driven by a strong increase in sales across non-food stores, particularly in the clothing market.

Clothing sales surged by 69.4 per cent, while other non-food stores experienced sales growth of 25.3 per cent during the same period, according to the latest ONS retail sales figures.

All retail sectors reported a fall in their proportions of online sales as physical stores re-opened during the month. The total proportion of e-commerce sales decreased to 30 per cent in April 2021, down from 34.7 per cent in March 2021.

The growth of in-store sales volumes reflects the impact of the easing of restrictions, including the reopening of all non-essential retail from 12 April in England and Wales, and 26 April in Scotland.

Retail sales were up by 42.4 per cent compared to April 2020, which was affected by the first national lockdown when the tightest restrictions were in place.

But ONS said that these growth rates are distorted by base effects and are “not a reliable guide.”

Sales volumes were 10.6 per cent higher than in February 2020, before the impact of the pandemic.

In the three months to April 2021, the volume of sales increased by 2.6% when compared with the previous three months, with strong growth in department stores and automotive fuel retailers of 9.9 per cent and 8.9 per cent respectively.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said that pent-up demand built up during lockdown continues to be released.

“While the figures are a step in the right direction after many months of retail closure, demand remains fragile,” warned Dickinson. “Footfall is still down by 40 per cent on the pre-pandemic period, and there are still 530,000 people who work in retail still on furlough.”

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