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Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, said:

“One year on from our first national lockdown the retail sector has changed dramatically, but remains remarkably resilient. March last year was a real anomaly and unlike anything we have seen before, with queues of consumers panic buying items and images of empty shelves across our media. Whilst a direct comparison of March 2021 with the previous year is therefore difficult, comparing retail sales of March 2021 to March 2019 reveals total sales have grown by 8.3%, despite the challenges of the last 12 months. In that context, last month saw historic growth rates in online sales, with some categories like men’s and children’s clothing and furniture reaching triple digits. This is testament to how retailers, many of which have spent much of the last year with their doors closed, have embraced trading through lockdown via digital platforms.

“As we enter the next stage of the Government’s roadmap to recovery this month, high streets across the country will be hoping that pent up demand from consumers will be released and cash registers will start to ring again. Government support packages will provide some relief to struggling retailers until after the summer, but conditions will continue to be incredibly challenging as they face thinner margins and rising costs. All hopes of a strong recovery now rest on consumers feeling more confident to move away from their homes and hitting the high street to browse the stores that have been out of bounds for months.”