April sales soar as Britons head to the high street

Retail sales jumped up by 9.2 per cent in April, with overall sales more than 10 per cent higher than pre-pandemic levels, and 42 per cent higher when directly compared to April 2020 (when the first national lockdown came info effect).

This is according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which also reported that online sales dipped last month.

Volume sales, seasonally adjusted, Great Britain, April 2018 to April 2021

Feedback from retailers suggested that the easing of hospitality restrictions had affected sales in the sector. The opening of physical stores saw the proportion of retail spending online decline to 30 from 34.7 per cent in March this year.

Elsewhere, non-food stores provided the largest contribution to the monthly growth in April’s physical store sales, aided (unsurprisingly) by strong increases of 69.4 and 25.3 per cent in clothing stores and other non-food stores respectively.

Household goods stores reported continued growth last month leading to a 19.7 per cent increase in sales compared with February 2020.

Volume sales, seasonally adjusted, Great Britain, April 2021 compared with March 2021

The British Retail Consortium’s Chief Executive, Helen Dickinson, said pent-up demand built up during lockdown continues to be released as the reopening of ‘non-essential’ retail offered the public “a welcomed opportunity” to visit many of their favourite shops.

“While the figures are a step in the right direction,” she said, “footfall is still down by 40 per cent on the pre-pandemic period, and there are still 530,000 people who work in retail still on furlough.”

Ms Dickinson called on the Government to “deliver” on its promise to reform the broken business rates system in its ongoing review.

Meanwhile, John Federman, CEO at experiential relationship management firm JRNI, commented: “The public is still keen to get out there. Whether consumers shop in-person or online, the expectation for true, personalised services is likely to increase. Retailers will need to ensure their physical and virtual offerings incorporate more individual service opportunities for consumers, as the lines between the online and in-store experience become increasingly blurred.”