Paul Martin, UK Head of Retail at KPMG, said:

“Twelve months on from the first lockdown, retailers will be delighted with the way the re-opening of the high street was greeted by shoppers in April, eager to get into stores and engage once more with physical shopping.

Remembering that this time last year we were in lockdown, there are some outstanding growth figures in April especially in non-food within categories such as jewellery, accessories and footwear which all registered triple digit growth this month. Clothing retailers, who have been particularly hard hit by store closures during lockdown, were the biggest beneficiaries of pent up demand as consumers headed out to re-stock their wardrobes in anticipation of social events being back on the agenda.

This maybe has come as a surprise although it does showcase that some changes in consumer behaviour are here to stay, online sales continued to grow across most categories, but at a reduced rate as many consumers stepped away from their computers to head outside.

As the vaccine programme continues at pace, and with the numbers of new COVID-19 cases becoming more manageable, retailers will be hoping that the prospect of any further lockdowns have now been put to bed for good. Conditions will still remain challenging as Government support tails away over the summer with interest and repayments on Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and bounce back loans given to support retailers at the start of the pandemic will need to start being paid back, alongside deferred rental payments. Retailers face an interesting few months as they assess the level at which online shopping falls back, in favour of people hitting the stores. The full reopening of the hospitality sector will likely see a dilution in retail spend in favour of leisure, entertainment and hospitality. Retailers will be hoping that with the increasing positive signs of the economy  improving, market conditions offer scope to spark a big surge in consumer spending this summer.”