Dec 18, 2020
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Fashion was hit hard in November say official UK retail stats

Dec 18, 2020

There may have been plenty of Black Friday bargains to lure shoppers, but UK retail sales still fell in November with sales volumes down by 3.8% compared to October. That came as England’s shops went into lockdown and stores in other devolved nations were also closed for part of the period. 

Photo: Sandra Halliday

That said, sales volumes overall were still above pre-pandemic levels, the Office for National statistics said on Friday. Year-on-year growth in the volume of retail sales increased by 2.4%, with feedback from businesses suggesting that consumers had brought forward Christmas spending. Retail sales values also rose by 1% year-on-year.

The really bad news was that clothing retailers sales saw a sharp volume fall when compared with the previous month, dropping a massive 19%. This is no surprise given that the lockdown meant shops were shut and clothing departments were closed off in many of those shops that were allowed to stay open.

The fashion sector has struggled to recover from the initial declines witnessed immediately after the first set of national lockdown measures, and remains 30.5% below February’s level, which was the final month before the pandemic hit.

Overall for UK retail, November was a particularly weak month after a succession of sales increases, although the lockdown was clearly responsible for that. And despite the fact that it was the middle of the biggest shopping season of the year, it was also clear that while online was able to take up much of the slack, it couldn't fully compensate for physical spaces whose doors were locked.

This can be seen from clothing retailers where that 19% total fall divided down into a 33% physical stores drop and only a 7.9% online rise month-on-month.

Overall, online retail grew 74.7% year-on-year last month but only 6.3% compared to October.

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