Jul 23, 2021
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Fashion falters in June but online spend remains strong say official stats

Jul 23, 2021

There was some good news but with a sting in the tail on Friday as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said UK retail sales volumes increased by 0.5% between May and June.Meanwhile sales by value rose 1.6%. And volumes were up 9.5% with values up 10.6% when compared with their pre-coronavirus February 2020 levels.

Photo: Tim Douglas/Pexels

And that downside? The largest contribution to the monthly increase in June 2021 came from food stores where sales volumes rose by 4.2%, with anecdotal evidence suggesting these increased sales may be linked to the start of the Euro 2020 football championship.

Unfortunately, non-food stores reported a fall of 1.7% in sales volumes month-on-month, with lower clothing sales part of that as such stores saw their volume sales falling 4.7%. As well as clothing stores being weak, department stores also reported a month-on-month decline of 3.6%.

The ONS also said that the proportion of retail sales happening online stayed “substantially higher” than before the pandemic (in fact, 39.9% higher than February 2020). But in June, most retail sectors reported a month-on-month fall in their proportions of online sales as consumers returned to physical stores. The total proportion of sales happening online fell to 26.7% in June, down from 28.4% in May. Overall, non-store retailers reported a monthly decline of 3.7% in June.

But while online sales overall declined, textile, clothing and footwear stores saw e-sales rising 0.2% month-on-month and 5%  compared to June 2020.

Commenting on the figures, analyst Jacqui Baker, partner and head of retail at consultancy RSM, said:The successful vaccine rollout, some good weather, Euros 2020 and Wimbledon have all lifted the mood of the nation and boosted consumer confidence to pre-pandemic levels, which increased sales volumes.”

But she’s concerned about July sales. “Freedom Day [July 19] was expected to accelerate this upbeat mood. However, with a rapid rise in Covid cases and the resulting increase in self-isolation mandates, retail’s recovery is still under threat. The new ‘pingdemic’ will impact footfall as consumers are kept at home through self-isolation or the fear of being pinged [by the NHS app]. In addition, summer spending may be affected when shops are too short-staffed to open the doors.”

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