Jan 22, 2021
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Fashion sales rose in December but 2020 a disaster, NWEC urges more support

Jan 22, 2021

December’s official retail sales on Friday drew a line under what was a disastrous year for retailing and especially for fashion, although the month itself was relatively buoyant in the circumstances.

New West End Company

The Office for National Statistics said that in December 2020, retail sales volumes increased by 0.3% month-on-month and 2.7% compared with February's pre-lockdown level.

Sales values rose 1.3% compared to November and 1.2% compared to February.

Clothing stores reported strong monthly volume growth of 21.5%, rebounding from a large fall in November when stores were closed because of coronavirus restrictions.

The year-on-year growth rate in the volume of retail sales increased by 2.9% when compared with December 2019. And non-store retailers reported the largest year-on-year growth at 43.5%.

But in 2020 as a whole, estimates of the quantity bought decreased by 1.9%, which was the largest year-on-year fall on record.

And clothing stores were down 25.1% during the year with the record annual increase for non-store retailing of 32% unable to make up for the fall. That said, total online retail values rose by 46.1% in 2020 year-on-year, the highest annual growth reported since 2008. And department stores saw a 65.9% rise in their online sales values.

But as we know, however much good news there was in the latest figures, it can’t disguise how difficult last year was for the fashion sector, a situation that’s continuing in 2021. Many clothing retailers shut stores for good last year and others collapsed under the weight of Covid restrictions.

Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company, which represents 600 businesses on Oxford Street, Regent Street, Bond Street and in East Mayfair said of all this: “Non-essential retail continues to face incredibly tough retail conditions. [Retailers] had their hopes of recouping any profit from the festive period dashed when restrictions increased in December.

“Today poignantly marks 150 days of shops being shuttered since the start of the pandemic. Retailers have invested millions in being Covid-secure, only to be forced to close on multiple occasions, through no fault of their own. 

“The West End’s businesses have demonstrated immense resilience, but trading conditions have never been more challenging. The Government must provide reassurance and support to retailers in bridging the gap until sales can resume.

“Visitors will come back to the West End. It is an economic powerhouse that drives a global Britain, but we need clarity, commitment and decisiveness from the Government to not only survive, but thrive in our recovery.”

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