UK retail sales volumes grow for sixth consecutive month

Friday 20th November 2020 08:15 GMT

Sales were 5.8% higher than the same month last year, with retailers reporting consumers had started Christmas shopping earlier than usual.

Online sales jumped by 52.8% and store sales were down by 3.3% as shops in some regions were affected by restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

Clothing sales were down 14% in October, with online sales up 17.1% but store sales down by 22.1%. Food sales were up 3.4%, also helped by a surge in online purchases.

Deputy national statistician for economic statistics Jonathan Athow said: "Despite the introduction of some local lockdowns in October, retail sales continued its recent run of strong growth.

"Feedback from shops suggested some consumers may have brought forward their Christmas shopping, ahead of potential further restrictions. Online stores also saw strong sales, boosted by widespread offers.

"However, the slow recovery in clothing sales has stalled after five consecutive months of increased sales."

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said: "There was a recovery in almost every category of the sector, and measuring the period to 31 October, these figures don't include the last minute rush to the high street after the second lockdown was announced.

"In fact, the only category to show a material decline in sales was fashion, with less demand for occasionwear and workwear continuing to hit an already beleaguered part of the market.

"The closure of non-essential stores and slump in consumer sentiment earlier this month will severely hamper the sector with little over a month to go to Christmas and Black Friday just a week away.

"Looking ahead to December, with online delivery capacity already stretched to its limits, retailers will be hoping for a swift lifting of lockdown restrictions and that consumers continue to show they can bounce back into spending mode, as they did after the first lockdown was lifted in June."

Ian Geddes, head of retail at Deloitte, said: "While 2020 has seen significant behavioural change among consumers, some lockdown habits look set to stay.

"Most notable is the shift to online shopping, accounting for 28.5% of all sales by value this month as consumers fully embrace the convenience of e-commerce, and another national lockdown keeps non-essential shops closed.

"However, many retailers are already applying creativity to deliver what is certain to be the most digital Christmas ever; whether it is by value and volume of online purchases or by bringing the in-store Christmas shopping experience online with virtual visits to Santa's grotto, and festive virtual workshops to follow at home."

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