Re­lief for re­tail as pent-up de­mand lifts sales by 3.4pc

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Tim Wal­lace

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.

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