Retailers benefited from an increase in sales, as stores labeled as non-essential were able to emerge from forced winter hibernation in April.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed volumes rose 9.2% last month from March after COVID-19[female[feminine restrictions were lifted from April 12 in England and Wales and two weeks later in Scotland, releasing a pent-up demand after months of closures.
Growth has been much better than economists had expected and marked the start of a recovery for a sector that has experienced one of the greatest employment suffering during the crisis to date, such as Sir Philip Green’s . Topshop empire and Debenhams be erased from city centers.
COVID updates live from UK and around the world
The response was led by fashion and other non-food stores.
The ONS saw an almost 70% jump in apparel sales on a monthly basis, supporting company updates like Primark and Superdry that they achieved record sales levels as checkouts came back to life.
Online sales fell 5.6% month over month, although the report said exclusively online retailers were the biggest winners during the crisis to date, with sales rising by 56% compared to April 2019.
Gas stations are among those suffering the most from working from home, leading to a 13.3% drop in sales.
The crisp numbers said the recovery of the industry as a whole in April left sales volumes 42.4% higher than a year earlier and 10.6% above their pre-market level. crisis, but there was evidence to suggest that pent-up demand had now peaked.
ONS deputy national statistician Jonathan Athow said: âClothing sales have climbed almost three-quarters as consumers take advantage of the opportunity to visit physical stores.
:: Listen and subscribe to The Ian King Business podcast here.
“Not surprisingly, overall online sales have fallen, but still remain high.”
One retailer that updated its performance on Friday since reopening its 1,000 stores in the UK was Card Factory.
The greeting and gift card chain revealed strong demand from April 12, but said store sales on a like-for-like basis in the five weeks remained slightly down compared to the same period in 2019.
The numbers are supported by evidence that the economic recovery, after the worst annual performance in more than 300 years, has gathered pace since March.
It was helped by wealthier households who were able to accumulate savings throughout the crisis, although high street stores will be competing with restaurants, pubs and vacation businesses for a share of that premium.
A measure of consumer confidence released by GfK on Friday found levels at their highest level since March 2020 – recovering all the ground lost by the pandemic.
Lisa Hooker, Consumer Markets Leader at PwC, said of the ONS figures: âThe good news for the high streets is that there is no sign of a permanent shift to online shopping, the proportion of internet sales rising from a high of 34.7% in March. up to 30% when stores reopen.
“Retailers hope that momentum continues through the rest of the spring and summer, as Britain continues to unblock and consumer confidence grows with warmer weather and the rapid and continued rollout of retailers. vaccines. “