According to information provided by the Office For National Statistics(ONS), sales volumes in November remained 2.6 per cent above the level seen in February, before the start of national restrictions, and 2.4 per cent higher than the year before.

Part of the reason for this was early spending on presents and festive goods in time for Christmas, as well as preparing retail shop fronts for increased sales in December as people planned Christmas shopping trips into a smaller time frame.

Despite this, a notable divide was found between retail types that were the most and least affected.

Whilst household goods and food sales grew due to being able to trade during November, sales at clothing stores reduced by nearly one fifth compared to sales in October.

Book stores were particularly affected, being an industry reliant on their retail spaces and the ability for shoppers to browse and thumb through potential books. Sales at book shops went down over two-fifths (40.3 per cent) compared to October.

Crafts and DIY supplies also saw an increase during November, mirroring the sales increases seen in March.

Food sales increased by 3.1 per cent, partly due to early Christmas preparations but also by the restrictions on hospitality venues, who could only offer delivery and takeaway service during this time.

 

Continued Challenges Ahead

Retail has weathered the storm of a particularly unique year, as the high street has particularly suffered economically from the current circumstances.

Whilst footfall continues to rise in December and is at a level higher than was seen in October, it is at lower levels than was seen last year. According to the ONS, overall footfall is at 69 per cent of last year’s level.

There are other positives as well. A quarter of adults shopped for non-essential items, which is the highest proportion since October.

With the general pace of retail increasing and a rollout of vaccinations set to help retailers and the high street, there looks to be a positive future in the long term.

However, there also pressures that could occur, such as an increase in restrictions for non-essential retail again, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ending in April 2021, and the effects of 2020 on overall consumer behaviour.

High street retail is affected by a range of factors that affect consumer behaviour and footfall, and many of these changes have been seen very rapidly in 2020.

Many more people worked from home for the first time, and whilst many of these newly-remote employees will return to offices and workplaces, there will also be those that will not, and this could affect shopping behaviour.

Retail, for people who work away from major retail hubs, could become more of an exceptional shopping experience rather than the norm, and with that retailers will need to change their approach to appeal to a larger group of more remote consumers.