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Early Christmas shopping spree sees October retail sales up 1.2%

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Retail sales volumes in October increased for the sixth month in a row as Brits started their Christmas shopping early. But November’s figures amid the second lockdown are likely to end the trend.

Retail sales volumes increased 1.2% when compared with September and by 7.9% when compared to February’s pre-pandemic level (excluding fuel).

Based on last October’s figures, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed the volume of retail sales saw a strong increase of 5.8%, helped by people starting their Christmas shopping earlier to take advantage of discounts.

The ONS noted that growth in the volume of sales for non-store retailing at 6.4%, household goods stores at 3.2% and department stores at 3.1% all contributed to the overall monthly increase in retail sales.

Online sales soared 52.8% while in-store sales fell back 3.3% and clothing stores and fuel were the only sectors still below their pre-lockdown sales.

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: ‘’Shoppers piled through the doors of real and virtual stores in October in a pre-lockdown splurge with sales increasing for a sixth consecutive month.

“Christmas shopping kicked off early with retailers offering discounts to lure customers in. However, fresh lockdowns in the middle of peak festive shopping season will mean many retailers will still be facing a nightmare before Christmas.

“The digital shift to online sharply accelerated again as looming lockdowns led to more shoppers filling virtual baskets instead. Grocery deliveries have again soared in popularity with online food sales nearly doubling in October, while purchases in store fell by just over 2%.”

She added: “Although it appears many more consumers got ahead of the game in October and started stockpiling presents before lockdowns took hold, the bulk of purchases will still need to be made. With many essential shops shut across the country, the virtual tills are likely to keep ringing as consumers shop from their sofas, at the expense of bricks and mortar retailers.”

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