Online booms to a record proportion of retail sales spending in May

Responding to the latest retail sales figures for May issued by the Office of National Statistics, Jacqui Baker, director and retail specialist at RSM said:

‘According to the latest figures issued by the Office of National Statistics, UK retail sales rebounded by 12 per cent when compared with the record falls in April, although May was still a difficult month for retailers with total sales down by 13.1 per cent on the pre-coronavirus norm.

‘With pubs and restaurants still closed, two sunny bank holidays and the easing of some lockdown measures, people took to the parks for picnics and gardens for BBQs. As a result, the food sector understandably held its own with overall sales not far short of March’s record high. 

‘Online boomed, with the overall proportion of sales soaring to a record 33.4 per cent. It’s clear that consumers have formed new habits and it will be interesting to see how many shoppers will return to the high streets from 15 June.

‘The figures added to hopes that the economic recovery will be faster than predicted following April's record low sales figures. The resumption of non-essential retail on Monday will play a crucial role in kick-starting the UK’s economy after figures from the ONS last week showed GDP decreased by a record 20.4 per cent in April. With the Government coronavirus support strategies starting to fall away, huge costs to implement social distancing measures, low footfall and uncertain consumer confidence, retailers need ongoing support from landlords and funders to keep their physical stores open.

‘June is seen as a crucial month in determining if the euphoria surrounding the reopening of the high street translates into spending at the tills. This weeks’ press certainly suggests that many consumers are eager to return to the shops with images of long queues outside some stores. However, the reality is that the bargain hunters fizzled out after day one and footfall is still down 55 per cent on last year. Strict social distancing measures and low-consumer confidence are certainly taking their toll.

‘Other factors that may hinder June’s results include the ongoing closure of retail stores in both Wales and Scotland, and the continued closure of some stores in England where businesses deem the climate too unstable to reopen.

‘Let’s hope consumers listen to Boris Johnson’s wise words when he insisted that people ‘should shop and shop with confidence’.’ 

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