UK retail sales weak in March as consumers stay cautious
UK Retail sales volumes fell by 1.4% in March 2022 following a fall of 0.5% in February, the Office for National Statistics said on Friday. That said, sales volumes were 2.2% above their pre-coronavirus February 2020 levels.
The largest contribution to the fall came from non-store retailing with volumes down 7.9% after a fall of 6.9% in February. The proportion of retail sales online fell to 26%, its lowest proportion since February 2020 (22.7%). Its peak of 37.1% had come a little over a year ago in the middle of a lockdown.
Again, though, even with the drops, e-sales volumes were 20.3% above February 2020.
Non-food store sales volumes rose by 1.3% in March, although fashion didn’t contribute to the rise with DIY on many consumers’ minds instead.
Clothing stores’ sales volumes actually dropped 0.5%. And department stores were down 0.1% month-on-month.
But the sub-sector of ‘other non-food stores' reported a monthly increase in sales volumes of 2.9% in March. This was because of strong growth in second-hand goods stores.
Overall, it seems small business struggled and Government High Streets Task Force expert and ShopAppy founder Dr Jackie Mulligan said: “For countless small independent retailers, March was merciless. The thousands of small high street businesses we work with said it was extremely challenging last month and this data reflects that. Inflation is really starting to take its toll on people's finances and that is rapidly impacting sales on the high street.”
And Victoria Jenkins, CEO of London-based fashion retailer Unhidden, added: “Sales are currently slow. An additional challenge for us, compared to fast fashion brands, is that we are made to order, which means producing items is much more time-intensive. We are also currently targeting a demographic that the fashion industry, sadly, has long excluded, namely the disabled community. We are still trust building with our prospective customers and that's another challenge right now.”
Dalia Hawley, skincare manufacturer at Dalia Botanqiue, also showed that beauty isn’t immune to the downturn. “I sell handmade natural skincare both online and in a local social enterprise craft shop. I have noticed a significant drop in sales, both online and in store over the past month or so. I believe people are now viewing my range as more of a treat as opposed to an item they previously didn't think twice about buying a few times a month,” she said.
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