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High street suffers weak sales as work from home trend continues

By September 8, 2020 No Comments

Online sales boosted retail over the past three months, but troubled high streets continued to suffer, according to figures.

The latest BRC-KMPG retail sales monitor revealed that total UK retail sales increased by 4.7 per cent on a like-for-like basis compared to the same month a year earlier.

However, non-food high street sales over the three months to August plummeted 17.8 per cent, despite total non-food retail sales increasing by 7.7 per cent on a like-for-like basis as they were buoyed by a significant jump in online sales.

Meanwhile, like-for-like food sales increased by 6.3 per cent over the three months.

Home working hitting high street

Non-food sales have plummeted over the past three months as food sales have risen (Photo: Dave Thompson/PA Wire)

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said high levels of home working have continued to drive growth in online sales.

She said: “Despite another month of growth in August, retail sales remain down overall since the start of the pandemic. Remote working has continued to help sales in home goods, such as food, computing, furniture and TVs.

“Meanwhile, city centre retailers continue to be devastated by low footfall and poor sales, as office workers stayed away for yet another month.”

The survey showed clothing, footwear and beauty retailers have particularly “struggled” as a result of lower high street footfall.

‘Mixed fortunes’

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, said: “We continue to experience mixed fortunes and not all retailers are where they should be at this point in the year.

“Fashion sales did start to rebound somewhat – at least online – although this was mainly driven by children’s back-to-school purchases. Likewise, the focus on home-related products, including furniture and computing equipment, continued – no doubt aided by many consumers remaining mostly at home.”

Susan Barratt, chief executive officer of IGD, said: “Following further easing of lockdown restrictions, consumer spending on food continues to return to more usual patterns.

“Grocery sales put in a solid performance compared to August 2019, despite a much cooler summer bank holiday at the end of the month for English and Welsh shoppers. The ongoing normalisation of consumer spending has also been helped by the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which gave the out-of-home sector a significant and much-needed boost.”

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