Relief for retail as pent-up demand lifts sales by 3.4pc
ENTHUSIASTIC shoppers spent more last month than they did in June 2019 as the lockdown lifted to unleash pentup demand on retailers.
Spending was up 3.4pc on the year, according to the British Retail Consortium, in a sharp turnaround from the fall of almost a fifth during the peak of the pandemic in April, indicating the economy is now turning a corner.
Looking only at sales in those shops that remained open as well as retailers’ websites, spending was up by more than 10pc, driven by online shopping.
Home accessories and furniture were popular after families were forced to spend more time at home through the coronavirus outbreak. Over the past three months, food sales have risen 3.8pc, while computers and other electronics were also a big seller, with more people working from home.
“June finally saw a return to growth in total sales, primarily driven by online as a result of lockdown measures being eased and pent-up demand being released. Despite footfall still being well below pre-coronavirus levels, average spend was up as consumers made the most of their occasional shopping trips,” said Helen Dickinson, the BRC’s chief executive. “Computing, furniture and home improvement all continued to do well as the public invested in home comforts and remote working.
“However, while categories such as food performed strongly, not all retailers can breathe a sigh of relief, with clothing, footwear, and health and beauty still struggling.”
Data from Barclaycard also indicates an improvement, though not quite on the same scale. Its numbers cover wider consumer spending, including on entertainment and leisure such as pubs, restaurants and cinemas that did not start reopening until July, and shows a 14.5pc decline on the year.
This is better than the peak drop of more than a third in April and more than a quarter in May, but remains bleak reading for many businesses.
Essentials are top of the list with spending up by 6.6pc as supermarket sales rose by more than a quarter.
Spending on fuel increased as lockdown restrictions were eased but is still down by a third on its usual level.
However, spending on eating and drinking was still down by more than half – an improvement on the drop of more than 70pc in May.