Some signs of retail recovery but little cause for optimism.
Covering the four weeks 5 July - 1 August
* Note 2020 is a 53-week year in the ONS calendar: as a result of the extra week in January 2020, the comparable 2019 performances cited here may differ from those published last year, due to the one-week shift in the comparison.
Paul Martin, UK Head of Retail | KPMG
“The release of pent up demand continued in July, with total retail sales growing at 3.2% compared to the same month in 2019. Fortunes were heavily polarised though, and fashion sales continued to suffer despite the summer weather – even online.
“While social distancing restrictions have eased and our daily lives have started to return to a degree of normality, shoppers are still focussed on life at home for the most part. Online sales continue to remain prominent – accounting for over 40 per cent of sales – while food and home focussed categories like furniture, homewares and kitchen accessories remained among the strongest performers. With many of us continuing to work from home, sales of computing equipment soared too.
“September will be the real test for retailers this quarter, traditionally being a month of high volumes driven by the return to school after the holiday season. That said, with the furlough scheme unwinding and wider economic uncertainty set for the autumn, consumer anxiety will likely rise along with it. This will place more scrutiny on disposable income and make life even tougher for retailers.”
Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive | British Retail Consortium
“July saw the second month of growth as lockdown measures eased and demand gradually began to return in some places. Many shops continued to struggle as footfall was down, with many people still reluctant to go out, and fewer impulse purchases. The strongest performance came from food, furniture and homeware, as consumers increasingly invest in their time at home, however, many shops, particularly in fashion, jewellery and beauty, are still struggling to survive. Online sales remained buoyant, slowing only slightly despite more shops reopening.”
“While the rise in retail sales is a step in the right direction, the industry is still trying to catch up lost ground, with most shops having suffered months of closures. The fragile economic situation continues to bear down on consumer confidence, with some retailers hanging by only a thread in the face of rising costs and lower sales. Rents are also continuing to accumulate and the next Quarter Rent Day could see many otherwise viable businesses fall into insolvency, costing stores, jobs and economic growth. The Government should adopt the proposal from landlords and tenants for a Property Bounceback Grant, which would deliver £7 billion in tax revenue to the Exchequer and save 375,000 jobs.”
Food & Drink sector performance | Susan Barratt, CEO | IGD
“Following two months of exceptionally strong growth, food and grocery sales slowed notably in July, signalling a move towards more normal or pre-lockdown shopper behaviour. Alcohol sales are still contributing significantly to growth for supermarkets, but less so than in May and June.
“IGD’s Shopper Confidence Index remained low but stable in July albeit with regional variations; local lockdowns in the north of England have led to a significant decrease in confidence in this region, while morale has been boosted in Scotland. However, the economic impact of COVID-19 will be felt on shopper confidence going forward and retailers should prepare for increased focus on savvy shopping for the remainder of the year at least.”
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About the British Retail Consortium
The BRC’s purpose is to make a positive difference to the retail industry and the customers it serves, today and in the future.
Retail is an exciting, dynamic and diverse industry which is going through a period of profound change. The BRC is committed to ensuring the industry thrives through this period of transformation. We tell the story of retail, work with our members to drive positive change and use our expertise and influence to create an economic and policy environment that enables retail businesses to thrive and consumers to benefit. Our membership comprises over 5,000 businesses delivering £180bn of retail sales and employing over one and half million employees.
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