Retail sales soar to record levels as economy reopens following lockdown easing

Retail sales have surged by record levels over the past three months as shoppers flocked back to stores following the easing of lockdown restrictions, new figures show.

The latest British Retail Consortium/KPMG retail sales monitor report showed the period between April and June saw a mammoth rebound in like-for-like for sales after stores reopened and people continued to spend more online.

Sales increased 10.4 per cent over the period, with a 13.1 per cent lift for June alone.

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The news will be a boon to the retail sector which has endured a torrid 18 months beset by lengthy closures and seen many high profile chains go to the wall.

Retail has come roaring back.

And, with the final Covid restrictions set to ease next week and a summer of staycations looking highly likely, the sector is hoping that it can bounce back further.

“The second quarter of 2021 saw exceptional growth as the gradual unlocking of the UK economy encouraged a release of pent-up demand built up over previous lockdowns,” said Helen Dickinson, inset, chief executive of the BRC.

“In June, while growth in food sales began to slow, non-food sales were bolstered by growing consumer confidence and the continued unleashing of consumer demand.

“With many people taking staycations, or cheaper UK-based holidays, many have found they have a little extra to spend at the shops, with strong growth in-store in June.”

Retail has battled back since reopening.

Ms Dickinson added that fashion and footwear sales were strong in the first half of the month with football fever helping to spark strong TV sales later in June.

Non-food stores, such as fashion and homeware retail, saw like-for-like sales jump by 47 per cent for the past quarter as they were buoyed by the strong reopening.

Meanwhile, food sales were also up 7.9 per cent for the three-month period.

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, said: “Retailers are facing challenges on a number of fronts, particularly convincing consumers that it’s safe to shop in store as restrictions around mask wearing and social distancing come to an end.

“With travel now looking to be back on the agenda for summer and Government Covid-19 support packages slowly coming to an end, retailers will be hoping that the feelgood factor from Euro 2020 and lifting of Covid restrictions will give the high street the summer boost it needs.”

Figures published this weekend by The Yorkshire Post showed that England’s appearance at the Euro 2020 final gave the economy a much-needed boost, with £2.3bn having been spent on food and drink alone in the UK during the tournament.

The hospitality sector was set for £180m in spending during the final, a 12.5 per cent increase from the tournament’s semi- final.