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Retailers enjoy record quarter of growth as spending soars

Joanna Faith
Written By:
Joanna Faith

The UK retail sector has enjoyed a record quarter of growth as the warm weather, Euro 2020 football tournament and pent-up demand encouraged people to spend.

Sales for April-June grew by 10.4 per cent compared to the same period in 2019, before the onset of the Covid pandemic, according to figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KMPG.

This was the highest rate of growth since the BRC and KPMG started tracking data in 1995.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “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.

“In June, while growth in food sales begun 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.

“Fashion and footwear did well while the sun was out in the first half of June, while the start of Euro 2020 provided a boost for TVs, snack food and beer.”

However, the BRC warned the retail sector faces strong headwinds with many retailers still making up for ground lost during the previous lockdowns.

“City centre retailers continue to suffer low footfall and spending as commuters and international tourist numbers remained well below pre-pandemic levels. Consumer comfort with the next stage of the roadmap will be key to the ongoing success of retail,” Dickinson said.

Meanwhile, data from Barclaycard showed consumer spending grew 11.1 per cent in June compared to the same period in 2019.

Spending on essential items grew 14.7 per cent – the sharpest rise since before the start of the pandemic in March 2020. This was driven by strong uplifts in supermarket shopping and spending at specialist food and drink stores – including butchers, bakeries, and off-licenses – as the nation kicked off the summer with BBQs and picnics.

Fuel spend also rose 3.6 per cent – the first growth since the pandemic began – as more Brits took to the roads to visit loved ones and take holidays in the UK.

Spending at bars and pubs rose 38.1 per cent – the first growth since September 2020.

Raheel Ahmed, head of consumer products at Barclaycard, said: “The start of the Olympics and the expected easing of restrictions later this month should continue to lift spirits and provide more opportunities for get-togethers, whether that’s a weekend break, a meal out or to celebrate sporting victories. It’s great to see Brits making up for lost time over the past year.”