April retail sales hit record highs amid reopening euphoria

April retail sales hit record highs amid reopening euphoria
Fashion total like-for-like sales surged by 84.2% last month.
// As non-essential shops reopened last month, retailers reported historic highs across fashion, lifestyle & homewares
// Total like-for-like sales increased six-fold in April compared to a decline of 29.6% last year
// Online sales continued to hold up after shops reopened, growing 28.2% and suggesting a clear shift in consumer behaviour

Retailers reported record sales across fashion, lifestyle and homeware and sustained growth of online sales in April, new figures reveal.

According to BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker (HSST), consumer confidence was boosted by the easing of lockdown and progress with the Covid-19 vaccination programme across the UK.

Total like-for-like sales, incorporating both in-store and non-store, increased six-fold in April, although this was compared to a weak base of a 29.6 per cent for the same month last year – thanks to the first UK-wide lockdown.


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As non-essential shops reopened last month after three months of lockdown, all three retail sectors in BDO’s HSST – fashion, lifestyle and homewares – recorded historic highs, caveated by the drought for sales revenues last year.

Lifestyle total like-for-like sales soared by 64.3 per cent in April, but from a base of a 40.1 per cent decline for the same month last year.

The result marks the second straight month of positive like-for-like sales for lifestyle and the first time since October 2020 that every week recorded positive results.

Fashion total like-for-like sales surged by 84.2 per cent last month, though from a base of  a 31.4 per cent decline in April last year.

April marking the second consecutive month of positive like-for-like fashion sales as shoppers invested in their post-lockdown wardrobes.

Homeware total like-for-like sales also rose in April, although BDO did not disclose an exact figure.

However, it said the growth compared to a dire comparative result for April 2020 when the closure of in-store channels constricted sales.

Meanwhile, the HSST indicated that online like-for-like sales grew 28.2 per cent in April from a base of 109.6 per cent growth last year, which was a record increase in online spending thanks to the first UK-wide lockdown.

With online sales continuing to hold up even after shops have reopened, BDO said this suggested both a rebound in consumer confidence and discretionary spending as well as clear signs that shifts in consumer behaviour towards online shopping were “sticking”.

“April’s results reflect a timely shift in the consumer mindset, with pent-up demand and renewed confidence providing a euphoric reopening for the high street,” BDO head of retail Sophie Michael said.

“We don’t know, however, if this euphoria will last and if sustained confidence around personal finances will continue to prop up spending or fade as restrictions ease and ‘normality’ resumes.

“The figures also illustrate a clear shift in consumer behaviour with online sales holding up strongly even as shops reopened.

“Some retailers may well have experienced significantly higher online figures than in store, despite opening their physical stores.

“This demonstrates the importance of continuing to focus across all channels and ensuring that they are viewed as one when engaging with the customer.

““Obviously, there is still a long road ahead, but retailers will be crossing their fingers that these positive signs translate into a lasting recovery driven by confidence and discretionary spend.

“Many will also be hoping that the easing of restrictions on 21 June will unleash a further wave of consumer spending.”

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