Shoppers in Britain seem to have defied the economic gloom as sales continue to increase for the fifth consecutive month, thanks to non-food items, including DIY and garden supplies. Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) stated that retail sales volumes grew by 1.5% between the months of August and September.
Sales currently stand at 5.5% higher than the pre-pandemic levels seen in February. The three months to September witnessed the biggest quarterly increase, with retail sales volumes increasing by over 17% when compared with the previous three months.
However, analysts have warned that the current sales surge might not last as several parts of the country return to COVID-19 lockdown.
“While food sales have done well in recent months as people have eaten out less, non-food store sales have now made a recovery at 1.7% above their February levels,” the ONS said.
“Home improvement sales continued to do well in September, with increased sales in household goods and garden items within ‘other’ non-food stores.”
Fuel remained the only major sector that has not improved from the February’s pre-pandemic level, according to the ONS.
“As lockdown eased, we saw an increase in travel and the quantity of fuel bought. However, as many people remained working at home and with certain restrictions still in place, fuel sales were yet to fully recover,” it added.
“We gained feedback from opticians in this sector, suggesting that pent-up demand for eye tests and optical wear increased their sales when lockdown measures had eased,”ONS added.
“There’s no doubting that UK consumers have been doing their bit to boost the economy, following a quarter of record retail sales growth,” said Lynda Petherick, head of retail at Accenture UKI.
“There’s little time for retailers to gather breath, though, and they will already be wondering – or perhaps dreading – what lies ahead in Q4,” Lynda continued.
“This should be a time for excitement as the crucial ‘golden quarter’ for retail is now underway. However, with lockdown measures across the UK tightening by the day, retailers are braced for a difficult and unconventional end to the year.”
The latest IHS Markit/CIPS flash UK composite output index indicates a “sharp slowdown” in growth as a result of a much weaker contribution from the service sector, reiterating the impact of local lockdowns on the economy. The index registered 52.9 in October from the 56.5 recorded in September and August’s recent peak of 59.1.
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