October sales see a lift thanks to pre-lockdown shopping

£2bn of sales per week will be lost this month, estimates the BRC.

It appears that shoppers continued to increase their spending last month, with retail sales rising year-on-year. Total retail sales increased by nearly five per cent in the four weeks to 31 October (against a decline of 0.3 per cent in the same period last year).

This is according to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, which showed that UK retail sales – excluding temporarily closed stores and including online sales – increased by 5.2 per cent on a like-for-like basis in October.

Over the three months to October, in-store sales of non-food items decreased by 11.4 per cent on a total basis; this is better than the 12-month total average decline of 19.6 per cent.

Non-food sales rose by 39 per cent online during October, with household appliances highlighted as one of the best performing areas online. In October last year sales growth was not as impressive and the category’s ranking was low.

“Online sales remain high and are set to grow further during Black Friday and lockdown,” said Don Williams, Retail Partner at KPMG. “Not all retailers are in a position to take advantage of this shift in customer behaviour, which has been accelerated by circumstance and for many is now both choice and habit.”

Referring to last month’s sales figures, Mr Williams added: “The gap between winners and losers is stark with home-related items, like technology and furniture, putting in a strong performance.”

He also said the important ‘golden quarter’ is likely to be “unrecognisable” this year, with capacity being another “significant challenge over the coming months” due to limits around online deliveries and with social distancing restrictions in stores.

“In order to survive, retailers must give serious thought to how consumers will engage in the run-up to Christmas.”

Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, added that the lockdown speculation towards the end of October prompted consumers to stock up on various products.

She said: “The disparity between online and in-store non-food sales widened, with the highest online penetration rate since June. Non-food stores once again experienced double-digit decline due to low footfall as more office workers returned to home working.

“During an incredibly challenging year for the industry, many retailers had finally thought that they were finding their footing. The new lockdown in England will now throw away this progress as we enter the crucial Christmas trading period. We estimate that £2bn of sales per week will be lost this month.

“It is therefore vital that retailers are able to trade from 3 December.”