UK retail sales break records again but for all the wrong reasons

Responding to the latest retail sales figures for April issued by the Office of National Statistics, Jacqui Baker, director and retail specialist at RSM said:

‘UK retail sales break records again this month but for all the wrong reasons. With total sales for April decreasing by 23.1 per cent compared with last year, it’s impossible to downplay the long-lasting effects coronavirus will have on the sector. 

‘Despite the hype around stockpiling continuing into early April, food sales were disappointing for the month. The virus prevented large family gatherings and turned Easter into a more modest affair. 

‘Fashion struggled again in April with overall clothing sales down by 50.2 per cent. The challenge for many fashion retailers will be the level of stock currently sitting in closed stores. For independents and department stores, this is seasonal stock already heavily discounted throughout lockdown by online retailers. In June, as non-essential retailers begin to reopen stores, many will be scrambling to top up working capital with heavy discounting. However, gains will be small as margins come under increasing pressure.

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‘The big winners during the Coronavirus pandemic have been those retailers with a core online offering or who were agile enough to step up their online and social presence quickly as lockdown commenced. The year on year boost in online sales as a proportion of total retail reached a record 30.7 per cent, but simply couldn’t make up the shortfall overall. It’s clear that the industry has a huge challenge ahead.

‘One thing which is certain is that consumer demand for outdoor leisure time is not going away. With holidays abroad being ruled out my Health Minister Matt Hancock as ‘unlikely’, the great British holiday is set to make a return – albeit in a different guise. Retailers should be ready to stock up now on wellies, umbrellas, and jumpers to meet future demand!’


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