British retail shows first signs of an early Christmas

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New data from the BRC suggests British retail is showing signs of an early Christmas.

In presenting the figures, it has replaced the three month averages with 6 month averages as this provides a picture of how retailers have fared over the pandemic.

On a total basis, sales increased by 5.6% in September, against a decline of 0.6% in September 2019.

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This is above the 6-month average decline of 1.1% and the 12m average decline of 1.0%. It is the best growth since December 2009, excluding Easter distortions.

In September, UK retail sales increased 6.1% on a Like-for-like basis from September 2019, when they had decreased 1.3% from the preceding year.

Over the three months to September, In-Store sales of Non-Food items declined 12.3% on a Total and 9.5% on a Like-for-like basis.

This is better than the 6-month and 12-month Total average declines of 29.6% and 18.8% respectively. For September, the like-for-like excluding temporarily closed stores remained in decline.

Over the three-months to September, Non-Food retail sales increased by 5.2% on a like-for-like basis and 3.2% on a Total basis. This is above the 12-month Total average decline of 5.0%. For the month of September, Non-Food was in growth year-on-year.

Online Non-Food sales increased by 36.7% in September, against a growth of 3.5% in September 2019. This is below the 3-mth average of 39.7% but above the 12-mth average of 26.3%.

Non-Food Online penetration rate increased from 30.8% in September 2019 to 40.1% this September.

It is worth noting that 2020 is a 53-week year in the ONS calendar: as a result of the extra week in January 2020, the comparable 2019 performances cited here may differ from those published last year, due to the one-week shift in the comparison.

Reflecting on the data, Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the BRC, said: “September saw a big improvement in retail sales growth, however sales over the last six months are still down on the previous year.

“Tighter coronavirus restrictions have continued to hold back clothing and footwear, particularly as the Government further restricts social events. With office workers still at home for foreseeable future, the sales of electronics, household goods and home office products have remained high.”

Adding: “September sales have also given retailers early signs that consumers are starting their Christmas shopping earlier this year, which retailers are encouraging their customers to do in order to manage demand at Christmas and keep people safe. However, store-based sales, excluding food are still in double digit decline.

“The industry is beginning to recover, however, forced store or warehouse closures during any future lockdowns could put paid to this progress. Retailers have invested hundreds of millions in making their premises Covid-secure, with perspex screens, social distancing, additional staff and hygiene measures. The industry also provides essential employment for three million workers in the UK and is already helping to contribute to the economic recovery.”

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Alex Douglas

The author Alex Douglas

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