// ONS says the amount spent by shoppers increased 7.3% Y-o-Y in March & quantity bought rose 7.2% Y-o-Y
// Sales were also up 5.5% compared with February & saw March mark a return to sales levels beating pre-pandemic figures
// Total retail sales in March also marked a return to sales levels higher than those witnessed in February 2020
Retail sales in March beat expectations after shoppers spent more in preparation of going out again once lockdown restrictions ease, according to new data.
The ONS revealed the amount spent by shoppers increased 7.3 per cent in March and quantity bought rose 7.2 per cent compared with the same month a year earlier – just as the first nationwide Covid-19 lockdown started.
Sales were also up 5.5 per cent compared with February and saw March mark a return to sales levels beating pre-pandemic figures, unlike January and February – despite most shops remaining closed.
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Non-essential shops reopened in England and Wales this month and saw strong demand and long queues by customers.
Total retail sales in March also marked a return to sales levels higher than those witnessed in February 2020 – up 1.6 per cent – before the pandemic began, despite continued restrictions to non-essential retail.
Sales volumes – the amount of goods bought, rather than the amount spent – was also up in March compared with a month earlier by 5.4 per cent, the ONS added.
Fashion sales were particularly strong – despite non-essential retailers remaining closed – jumping 17.5 per cent – with other non-food sales also up 13.4 per cent.
An easing of travel restrictions in March also saw petrol station sales rise 11.1 per cent and with the vaccine rollout continuing at pace, shoppers headed out to stores that remained open in greater numbers.
As a result, the proportion spent online decreased to 34.7 per cent last month, down from 36.2 per cent in February, but still above the 23.1 per cent reported a year ago.
The ONS said food stores reported monthly growth of 2.5 per cent last month, with strong growth in specialist food stores, including butchers and bakers, likely reflecting the continued closure of the hospitality sector during the Easter period.
Despite strong March figures, retail sales for the first three months of the year have been subdued overall, with volumes down 5.8 per cent compared with the previous three months when restrictions had been eased.
with PA Wires