Retail sales continue to recover

UK retail sales volumes continued to recover in March, up 5.4 per cent when compared with the previous month, reflecting the effect of the easing of Coronavirus restrictions on consumer spending.

This is according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which also said sales were 1.6 per cent higher than February 2020 before the impact of the pandemic.

Covering the period for March (from 28 February to 3 April 2021 ­– so finishing before non-essential retailers were allowed to reopen in England on 12 April), the ONS added that despite strong March figures, retail sales for the quarter have been subdued overall.

In the three months to March, retail sales volume fell by 5.8 per cent when compared with the prior quarter, with strong declines in both clothing stores and other non-food stores as a result of the tighter lockdown restrictions in place.

Online spending increased last month, only slightly, up 0.6 per cent when compared with February. The overall proportion of online retail decreased, however, to 34.7 per cent, down from 36.2 per cent in February. But it still remains far higher than the 23.1 per cent reported in March 2020.

Darren Morgan, ONS Director of Economic Statistics, said: “The approaching Spring enticed people into garden centres, which had a good month, while clothing sales sprung back to life as people looked to update their wardrobe in anticipation of lockdown easing.”