Retail sales increased substantially between 4 April and 1 May 2021, around the time non-essential retail was allowed to reopen, compared to April 2019, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG’s survey of retailers in the UK.
Due to 2020 being a “turbulent time” for the sector, BRC and KPMG are comparing 2021 sales figures with pre-pandemic levels in 2019, in order to get a better gauge of the industry’s recovery.
Sales in the UK rose by 7.3% over the period, representing a three-month average growth of 6%.
Helen Dickinson OBE, BRC’s chief executive, said: “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. This and the end of the full business rates relief in England in June jeopardises the future of many stores and the livelihoods of those who depend on them.”
She added: “The Government must deliver on its promise to reform the broken rates system in their ongoing review and reduce the financial burden on retailers, or risk more unnecessary store closures and job losses.”
Paul Martin, head of retail at KPMG, said: “Remembering that this time last year we were in lockdown, there are some outstanding growth figures in April especially in non-food within categories such as jewellery, accessories and footwear which all registered triple digit growth.
“Clothing retailers, who have been particularly hard hit by store closures during lockdown, were the biggest beneficiaries of pent up demand as consumers headed out to re-stock their wardrobes in anticipation of social events being back on the agenda.”
He added: “Online sales continued to grow across most categories, but at a reduced rate as many consumers stepped away from their computers to head outside.
“This maybe has come as a surprise, although it does showcase that some changes in consumer behaviour are here to stay.”