May retail sales slide 0.8% despite lockdown ending

Retailers suffer surprise sales fall despite reopening
Retail sales have now increased for the past four months as life begins to return to normal.
// Sales in May dipped 0.8% in value compared with April, according to the ONS
// Drop was driven by supermarkets & other food sellers, which suffered a 5.7% drop in sales volumes
// Fashion retailers reported a decline of 2.5%, while department stores saw sales dip 6.7%

Retailers suffered a surprise setback in May as a drop in food sales offset the gains seen by non-essential shops after they reopened.

Sales in May dipped 0.8 per cent in value compared with April, according to the ONS.

The fall compared with a 9.2 per cent jump between April and March following the reopening of non-essential retail stores in April, starting with England and Wales on April 12 before Scotland and Northern Ireland followed suit later in the month.


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ONS said the drop in sales in May was driven by supermarkets and other food sellers, which suffered a 5.7 per cent drop in sales volumes, as people opted for eating out as pubs and restaurants were reopening for business.

However, furniture and hardware stores proved especially popular in May, with sales in their “household goods” sector rising nine per cent.

Non-food sales volumes generally increased by 2.3 per cent, the ONS said.

Fashion retailers reported a decline of 2.5 per cent, while department stores saw sales dip 6.7 per cent.

Fuel sales were up 6.2 per cent as lockdown easing unlocked people’s travel plans.

Overall, it means retail sales have now increased for the past four months as life begins to return to normal.

However, online sales may have fallen as shoppers preferred to head to high streets, especially with restaurants, bars, cafes and cinemas all reopening in May, the ONS added.

Compared with May last year, during the first national lockdown which left high streets deserted, sales were up 27 per cent and were also up 9.1 per cent compared to February 2020, right before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

Online retailers have been one of the biggest winners throughout the pandemic, as they were able to get goods to customers when high streets were closed.

The value of retail sales online was 58.8 per cent higher in May 2021 than in February 2020, despite a 5.7 per cent dip over the last month.

In-store retail sales, on the other hand, had dropped 1.3 per cent from February 2020.

with PA Wires

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