Retail Sales Bounce Back
The latest batch of retail sales statistics revealed grounds for
cautious optimism, with official data reporting a sharp rebound
in June’s overall figure and survey evidence pointing to further
growth in July.
Data published by ONS showed that retail sales volumes increased
by 13.9% in June compared to the previous month. This surge in
sales, which followed April’s record fall and a partial recovery in May,
resulted in volumes recovering to around pre-lockdown levels as the
reopening of shops released significant pent-up demand.
Indeed, sales rose to within 0.6% of the figure recorded in February
2020, the last month unaffected by the coronavirus lockdown.
However, while this does point to a significant recovery, the data also
highlighted some notable variations across the retail landscape, with
some store types performing much better than others.
Picking up on these themes, ONS deputy national statistician
Jonathan Athow commented: “Clothing is down by about a third and
if you look at the High Street more generally, sales in physical shops
are also down by about a third. Food shops continue to do quite well,
as we’re eating at home more. But the real growth has been in online
sales. Online sales continue to go from strength to strength.”
The latest Distributive Trades Survey published by the Confederation
of British Industry (CBI) also reported further signs of optimism, with
the monthly retail sales balance rising to +4 from -37 in June. This was
the survey’s highest reported balance in over a year and suggests the
overall recovery in sales continued in July.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the CBI survey also painted a mixed picture
across the retail scene, with the improvement primarily driven by
strong grocery and hardware/DIY sales. Most other retail sectors
continued to report declines, although these were generally less
severe than in recent months.