In the month of April, retail sales in the UK experienced a significant rebound as non-essential stores reopened in England, Wales, and later in Scotland. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there was a notable month-on-month increase of 9.2% in both the volume and value of retail sales. The largest contribution came from non-food stores, particularly clothing stores, which witnessed a substantial 69.4% surge in sales volume.

With the reopening of physical stores, there was a corresponding decrease in online sales, dropping from 34.7% in March to 30% in April. This decline, though significant, occurred before the full easing of lockdown restrictions. Therefore, it will be intriguing to see how this figure evolves in May and beyond.

When compared to pre-pandemic levels in February 2020, retail sales volume in April grew by 10.6%, while retail values rose by 9.9%. Despite being slightly down by 0.4% compared to February 2020, clothing stores experienced a positive month. Department stores also saw growth, with a month-on-month increase of 4.7% and a 7.6% rise compared to February 2020.

In terms of online retail, e-sales in textile, clothing, and footwear stores saw a month-on-month decrease of 6.3%. However, there was a remarkable year-on-year increase of 83.6% in this sector. The ONS emphasized this year-on-year comparison due to the continuous nature of e-sales during the pandemic. Last year, consumers were apprehensive about purchasing fashion items due to the novelty of the lockdown. However, this year has witnessed a positive shift towards a return to normalcy, with consumers embracing the opportunity to shop again. Online department store sales experienced a year-on-year decline of 1.6% and a month-on-month decrease of 22.4%.

The April retail sales figures in the UK highlight the resilience of the industry as it recovers from the impacts of the pandemic. The reopening of physical stores has undoubtedly stimulated consumer spending, especially in sectors like clothing. Although online sales have slightly dipped due to the return of physical shopping, they remain a significant part of overall sales.

As the UK continues to ease restrictions and gradually return to a sense of normality, it will be fascinating to observe how consumer behavior evolves in the coming months and whether the retail sector can sustain this positive momentum.

Useful links:
Retail Gazette: UK Retail Sales Surge in April as Shoppers Return to High Streets
BBC News: UK retail sales bounce back strongly in April