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Retail sales surge as high street shops re-open

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Written by: Emma Lunn
21/05/2021
Retail sales volumes grew sharply in April, with a monthly increase of 9.2%, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Non-essential retailers were allowed to re-open from 12 April in England and Wales and from 26 April in Scotland.

Non-food stores reported the largest monthly growth in April 2021 of 25.4%, with clothing stores in particular reporting strong growth of 69.4% as the sector benefitted from the re-opening of physical stores.

Automotive fuel retailers also reported strong growth of 10.6% as further relaxation of restrictions saw an increase in travel. Food stores were the only sector to report a monthly decline of 0.9%.

Online sales were down by 5.6% month-on-month in April though the ONS said that online-only retailers had been the biggest winners during the pandemic so far with sales up 56% when compared to April 2019.

Ulas Akincilar, head of trading at, Infinox, said: “Britain’s high street has come out swinging, and then some. Analysts had been expecting a big April; what they got was a blockbuster.

“Preliminary figures for the month had come in strong, but the official data reveals just how and where months of pent-up demand was unleashed. The first thing to say is that the obituaries written about the high street now look a little premature.

“Britons seized the opportunity to shop in physical stores once again, and the proportion of sales made online fell across the board in April.”

David Jinks, ParcelHero’s head of consumer research, said: “At last, high street retailers have some news to celebrate. In-store shopping certainly won on points in April, following the reopening of non-essential stores on ‘the glorious twelfth’. Household goods sales grew 10.2% in April compared to March, with clothing sales bouncing back from the ropes with a 69.4% growth against the previous month thanks to the re-opening of High Street fashion stores.

“All this is hugely encouraging and shows consumers still want to visit physical stores if they can feel safe. There’s no doubt that the success of Britain’s vaccination campaign has done a lot to increase public confidence.”

Retail sales volumes in April 2021 were 42.4% higher than in April 2020, which was affected by the first national lockdown when the tightest restrictions were in place.

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