stockpiling

Home improvement and stockpiling boost September UK retail sales

Consumers increased spending on improving their homes and stockpiling goods in September in preparation for a tightening of restrictions, providing a boost for retailers.

Sales in the UK rose 5.6 per cent last month compared with the same period a year ago, according to data from the British Retail Consortium and the consultancy KPMG. That was above the six-month average decline of 1.1 per cent and the best annual growth rate of any month since December 2009, it found.

“September saw a big improvement in retail sales growth,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive at the BRC, whose survey covers about 60 per cent of the industry.

“With office workers still at home for the foreseeable future, the sales of electronics, household goods and home office products have remained high,” she added. In contrast, more time spent at home and the cancellation of public events “have continued to hold back clothing and footwear”.

Line chart of Annual % change showing UK retail sales shift online

Food retail sales also rose in September as shoppers began stockpiling in reaction to possible further restrictions, said Susan Barratt, chief executive at the grocery consultancy IGD, commenting on the BRC data.

The growth in overall retail sales does not mean that high-street retailers are out of the woods, as the shift toward online sales prompted by the lockdown continued.

Online non-food sales last month rose 37 per cent compared with the same period a year ago. In contrast, in-store sales of non-food items were still very depressed.

Retail sales were the first of the main economic indicators to rise above last year’s level back in July as consumers spent money on food and drink rather than visiting restaurants and pubs.

The BRC findings chime with a 2 per cent annual growth in consumer spending in September, according to Barclaycard data also published on Tuesday.

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