DIY spending increase drives fourth month of UK sales recovery
UK retail sales increased for the fourth consecutive month in August amid a rise in spending on DIY and home improvements, as shoppers gradually return to the high street after the easing of lockdown.
Continuing a recovery in consumer spending as more shops reopened across Britain, the Office for National Statistics said the volume of retail sales had risen by 0.8% in August from a month earlier.
In a reflection of the rapid rebound despite mounting concerns over the economic impact of the crisis, total retail sales were 4% higher than compared with pre-pandemic levels in February.
Internet shopping suffered a slight monthly dip, in response to consumers gradually returning to shopping centres and high streets, but sales online remained almost 50% higher than in February.
Items that sold well in UK during Covid-19 lockdown
Lockdowns changed everything for retailers around the world but there was a common theme: people were in the mood for upgrading their immediate surroundings and rethinking how to spend their time at home.
Here are some of the products that have sold more in the UK since the coronavirus pandemic struck.
Sofas are usually among the bigger-ticket items that wary consumers avoid during times of economic uncertainty but, with everyone staying at home, DFS Furniture said it enjoyed a “pleasant surprise” as people spent on new furniture. Customers deprived of the ability to splash out on foreign holidays spent 9% more than before the lockdown.
The soft furnishings chain Dunelm said it had seen a similar bump in sales, thanks in part to pent-up demand. Sales were up by a quarter in August compared with 2019.
Tool shops counted as essential retailers in the UK, meaning they were among the few outlets for spending during lockdowns. The B&Q and Screwfix owner Kingfisher reported sales were up by a quarter year on year in June
The pandemic has secured video games’ pre-eminent position in the entertainment world. The consumer research company Nielsen found that UK use of video games was up by 28% by June compared with 23 March.
At the other end of the activity spectrum, government exhortations to avoid public transport and restrictions on exercise pushed up bike sales. During lockdown, demand for some equipment was five times pre-pandemic levels, Halfords reported – although analysts at Mintel said sales could actually fall this year as unemployment rises.
Lockdowns prompted a boom in home baking, leading to shortages of key ingredients such as flour, but other home grocery products were perhaps less predictable – such as the resurgence in boxed wine. The Co-op chain reported an unprecedented 300% sales uplift in boxed wines, as customers went for value – and volume – in their purchases.
Despite the continued increase in spending, not all shops have benefited from the revival as the coronavirus pandemic changes the shape of the retail industry.
The ONS said sales of household goods had thrived as more people spent time at home, with sales in household goods stores almost 10% above pre-pandemic levels.
However, sales in clothing stores remained 15.9% below the level in February as shoppers continued to stay away from high street fashion stores.
Growing numbers of high street shops have announced job cuts and store closures. Footfall in big city centres remains significantly below usual levels as shoppers move online and office staff continue to work from home.
After spiking during lockdown as pubs and restaurants closed, food and drink spending also fell in August as more consumers dined out during the government’s subsidised “eat out to help out” scheme.
Analysts warned the rebound in retail sales could falter as job losses mount across the country when the furlough scheme ends, and as coronavirus infections rise, forcing more restrictions on business and social life.
Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at the accountancy firm PwC, said: “As we approach the run-up to Christmas – during which the lion’s share of profits are normally made – retailers will be hoping that the fragile recovery is not derailed by more widespread lockdowns, rising unemployment or dented consumer confidence.”
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