The British economy reinforced an upward trend leading to the fastest quarterly growth on record in shopping in stores and online. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said warmer weather, people holidaying in the UK and the start of the Euro 2020 football tournament had all reinforced the trend towards higher spending.
In its monthly health check conducted in collaboration with the accountancy firm KPMG, the BRC said retail sales were 13.1 per cent higher in June than in the same month two years ago, while the total for the second quarter of 2021 was 10.4 per cent up on the same three-month period of 2019. The BRC said it was comparing 2021 spending with 2019 because the figures last year were distorted by the downturn caused by the early stages of the pandemic.
The BRC said the post-lockdown freedom for consumers to shop on the high street and retail parks had led to a dip in online spending, with the digital penetration rate dipping from 49.7% to 39.3% between June 2020 and June 2021.
Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the BRC, said, “The second quarter of 2021 saw exceptional growth as the gradual unlocking of the UK economy encouraged a release of pent-up demand built up over previous lockdowns. In June, while growth in food sales begun to slow, non-food sales were bolstered by growing consumer confidence and the continued unleashing of consumer demand. With many people taking stayscations, or cheaper UK-based holidays, many have found they have a little extra to spend at the shops, with strong growth in-store in June. Fashion and footwear did well while the sun was out in the first half of June, while the start of Euro 2020 provided a boost for TVs, snack food and beer.”
She warned that retailing still faced difficulties, with many firms still trying to make up ground lost during the lockdown and city centres still suffering from low footfall caused by working from home and a lack of international tourists.
“Consumer comfort with the next stage of the roadmap will be key to the ongoing success of retail. Many customers are looking forward to a return to a more normal shopping experience, while others may be discouraged by the change in face covering rules. The government will need to reassure the public on safety, while pushing forward with its hugely successful vaccination programme,” she said.
Paul Martin, the UK head of retail at KPMG, said, “The fight for share of wallet is under way, as consumers unleash pent-up demand for social activities as restrictions in the UK continue to unwind.”