Data from the Retail Sales Index showed that retail sales volumes increased by 3.6 per cent in July, compared to June, and that they were three per cent above pre-pandemic levels in February.

However, while food store and non-store retailing remained strong, the likes of clothing sales have yet to recover to their pre-pandemic levels, showing the divide within the retail sector. Even though July saw 11.9 per cent month-on-month growth of sales volumes for clothing retailers, their sales still remain 25.7 per cent lower than they were in February this year.

Meanwhile, online retail sales dropped by seven per cent in July compared to June, but they are still 50.4 per cent higher than pre-pandemic levels.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) chief executive Helen Dickinson said that the latest figures “mask a crisis underway in some parts of the retail industry”.

“While food and online have shown growth, the hustle and bustle of shoppers and workers has yet to return to major town and city centres, continuing to impact sales significantly in those locations,” she said.

Ms Dickinson also stressed that many retailers are still struggling, with many having been unable to pay their rent during the lockdown period. “The survival of many retail businesses hangs in the balance,” she asserted.

The BRC pointed out that sales at non-food stores, excluding online, between April and May were down by an average of £1.6 billion per week compared to the same period in 2019.

Although there are undoubtedly great challenges for the UK’s high streets, some believe that this period could be an opportunity for a much-needed rethink about how they operate and fit into modern life.

Speaking to Essential Retail earlier in August, founder of the Really Local Group Preston Benson said that the Covid-19 pandemic has “accelerated opportunities that we felt have been growing for the last five to ten years with respect to high street retail”.

The aim of the Really Local Group is to encourage more mixed-use properties, with businesses besides retailers coexisting alongside the shops on local high streets. The intention is to attract a wider range of people and to encourage them to spend longer in a town centre, which the group believes will benefit all the businesses based there.

To achieve this, however, Mr Benson stressed the need for businesses to become much more digitally savvy, with a strong WiFi network as well as an active social media presence essential to draw people in.

Kyle Monk, head of retail insights and analytics at the BRC, also believes that the mixed-use route is the way to go for the future of the high street, because this will encourage “less retail but higher footfall and more energy and life”. As a result, communities will start to take the place of what were previously just retail units, he said.

If you’re looking for stainless steel shop fronts to get premises ready for business, get in touch with us to find out more about what we offer.