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Lockdown ease boosts UK retail sales in April but food and drink slows

Tue, 11th May 2021 05:07

(Alliance News) - UK shop prices rose in April, data on Tuesday showed, as non-essential retailers lifted shutters again in England after the latest national lockdown.

According to the British Retail Consortium and KPMG monitor, total retail sales climbed 7.3% in April, compared to two years earlier. The BRC figures use 2019 as the most relevant comparative, because of how fraught 2020 was for the UK retail sector.

On a like-for-like basis, sales jumped 46% from April 2019. The like-for-like climb in April 2019 was just 3.7%.

"Following the reopening of so-called non-essential stores on 12th April in England and Wales and continued online growth, retail sales enjoyed a welcome boost last month. With the short-term pent-up demand for the shopping experience drawing consumers back to stores, non-food sales across stores and online increased by a quarter between March and April," BRC Chief Executive Helen Dickinson said.

In the three months to April, total in-store sales of non-food goods fell 31%, but were up 1.6% on a like-for-like basis. Over the same period, food sales were 10% higher on both a total and like-for-like basis.

Online non-food sales jumped 57% in April alone, versus growth of 4.3% two years earlier.

"Many fashion retailers saw an uptick in sales, particularly in outerwear and knitwear, as the public braved the cold spring weather for outdoor meeting and dining with friends. Furniture also saw a boost as consumers can once again try before they buy," Dickinson added.

"While the boost in sales is positive as the industry continues to invest in safety and the online offer, high streets still have a long way to go on the path to recovery. There are 530,000 people who work in retail still on furlough."

Susan Barratt, chief executive of insights firm IGD, said comparatives in the food and drink sector alone would be difficult to make, given the timing of Easter. However, weekly data showed food sales slowed in mid-April, as beer gardens reopened, though "some momentum was regained towards the end of the month," Barratt added.

"Inevitably, food and drink will settle at a reduced rate of growth as the competitive landscape normalises but also as the tough lockdown comparatives from 2020 persist for the next few months."

By Eric Cunha; ericcunha@alliancenews.com

Copyright 2021 Alliance News Limited. All Rights Reserved.

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