The Office for National Statistics has released new data that shows retail sales have been increasing over the last two months, and the official figures show that overall retail sales are now almost pre-lockdown levels.

After huge falls in sales in April and May, June saw sales in England, Scotland and Wales climb by 13.9% (compared to sales in May), which is fantastic news for the high street and business owners all over the UK, but it has also come as a welcome surprise—the increase is much stronger than the 8% predicted by economists.

 

Food up, clothing down

While this is great news, we need to remember that retail sales are complex and that this increase does not mean that our shopping habits have returned to normal quite yet.

The Office for National Statistics said the positive figures “mask big changes” in retail, as while food and online sales are up, clothing sales are “still struggling”.

John Athow, a deputy national statistician for the Office for National Statistics spoke to the BBC on the matter, stating there has been “some really big changes under the surface” of the retail landscape since the UK lockdown was first put into place.

“Food shops continue to do quite well, as we’re eating at home more,” he said. “But the real growth has been in online sales. Online sales continue to go from strength to strength.”

 

Masks are now compulsory

Despite high street shops opening their doors to customers once again, the experience of being in a shop has changed so much that customers may also be more reluctant to enter them.

The government has now made it mandatory for face coverings to be worn by all customers in shops in England, whether this is a supermarket or shopping centre, department store or takeaway—and police can hand out fines to those who don’t comply. 

Shop owners, managers and staff will also need to do their bit to make sure they step it up and put the appropriate measures in place.

Whether this is Perspex screens, one way systems, or restricting the number of customers in store at any one time, customers will need to feel reassured that they are shopping in a safe environment in order for retail sales to keep increasing.

 

Returning to retail

While it will take some time to consistently get back to our pre-coronavirus shopping habits, experts believe that the news of this increase in sales in June shows we are slowly returning to retail, which is positive news in the pandemic.

Jeremy Thomson-Cook, the chief economist at Equals Money, said: “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping, and it seems like June encapsulated that well.”

Silvia Rindone, a retail partner at EY, said that these figures show us all that there is some “hope on the horizon,” with consumers starting to show “a cautious optimism.”

While we’re still not past the pandemic, the boost in retail sales is good news for us all. If you’re looking for shop front doors in London, get in touch with us today.