Retail sales 9.5% higher than pre-pandemic levels

Retail sales volumes increased by 0.5 per cent between May and June 2021 and were up 9.5 per cent compared to pre-coronavirus levels over the same period.

According to the latest ONS figures, the largest contribution to the monthly increase in June 2021 came from food stores where sales volumes rose by 4.2 per cent, with anecdotal evidence suggesting these increased sales may be linked with the start of the Euro 2020 football championship.

Non-food stores reported a decrease of 1.7 per cent in sales volumes in June 2021 when compared with May 2021, driven by falls in household goods stores, such as furniture stores and clothing stores.

The volume of sales for the three months to June 2021 was 12.2 per cent higher than in the previous three months, driven in large part by particularly strong sales in April when non-essential retailing re-opened; strong three-month growth was seen in non-food retailers and automotive fuel sales of 35.8 per cent and 23.6 per cent respectively.

The proportion of retail sales conducted online remains substantially higher than before the pandemic, but in June most retail sectors reported a fall in their proportions of online sales as consumers returned to physical stores.

The total proportion of sales online decreased to 26.7 per cent in June 2021, down from 28.4 per cent in May 2021.

“After stages one to three of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown passed without incident, June saw the first stumbling block as the near total easing of restrictions was pushed into July," said Lynda Petherick, head of retail at Accenture UK and Ireland, commenting on the figures. "Nonetheless, June was a month of progress for a sector desperate to return to “normal”, as shoppers hit the supermarkets to stock up on food and drink for the EUROs."

She said that the question for retailers of all sizes now is whether this run can continue in the face of fresh challenges.

"With the long anticipated “freedom day” finally arriving this week, retailers are grappling with high numbers of staff self-isolating and issues with reduced stock, with some stores operating on reduced hours or even closing for periods of time," added Petherick. "These are all challenges which could impact July’s figures"

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