U.K. Shop Sales Accelerate as End of Lockdown Nears, BRC Says

U.K. retail sales growth accelerated in February as the government’s roadmap to end the coronavirus lockdown spurred purchases of back-to-school items, an industry survey showed.

The increase of 1% last month compared with a gain of 0.1% a year ago and average growth of 0.6% for the past three months, according to the report by the British Retail Consortium and KPMG. A separate report from Barclaycard showed a 115% gain for e-commerce sites and a 63% growth in food and drink sales.

U.K. Shop Sales Accelerate as End of Lockdown Nears, BRC Says

The figures add to evidence that retailers are adapting to rules that will keep non-essential stores shut until at least the middle of April. They also showed that consumers were eager to spend once the rules eased, which started with schools re-opening on Monday.

“While the uptick in sales is encouraging, many retailers are concerned about the months ahead,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive officer of the BRC. “Many retail businesses will be hoping that customers will return to shops and have spent hundreds of millions on making their premises Covid-secure, but previous re-openings have shown that demand can be slow to come back.”

The retailers that did best sold through Internet channels. Like-for-like sales surged 9.5% from February 2020, compared with a 0.4% drop a year ago. Online food sales growth accelerated to 82% from 3.6% a year ago.

“As we all spend more time at home, we’ve seen home subscription services, fresh food boxes and meal-kit services become a popular mainstay of life in lockdown.” said Barclaycard’s Raheel Ahmed.

Spending in pubs and bars dropped to almost nothing and in restaurants by 85% because of lockdowns, while outlays for non-essential goods dropped by 22%. Fuel spending also declined by 30%.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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