Biggest Ever Recorded Quarterly Jump in UK Retail Sales: Official Report

October 23, 2020 Updated: October 23, 2020

The UK has seen the biggest ever recorded jump in quarterly retail sales as the sector’s struggle to withstand the onslaught of the CCP virus continues and new restrictions to slow its spread come into force.

The jump of 17.4 percent in retail sales in the three months from July to September meant they had picked up from the “record-low levels experienced earlier in the year,” the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported on Friday.

Retail fought back over the five months since May with a month on month increase in sales overall until September, the ONS said.

The high retail sales figures come despite expected consumer reticence following big job cuts during the pandemic and amid further uncertainty as millions face tighter restrictions under multiple local COVID-19 measures coming into force.

There is reportedly some evidence that showed people may also have been doing Christmas shopping early amid uncertainty around changing virus-related restrictions in the months ahead.

The ONS said there were mixed fortunes for different retail areas over the past months.

Eating Out Less

DIY and household goods categorised as “non-food” sales fared well in recent months, it said, as did shop-bought food due to people eating out less during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, fuel remained low in September, down 8.6 percent on February’s pre lockdown levels.

Retail was among the hardest hit following the UK’s initial national lockdown with clothing being the biggest loser in the sector, plummeting in April by 50.2 percent on an already 34 percent drop in March.

Clothing sales remained low in September, the ONS said, at 12.7 percent below pre-lockdown levels.

Redundancy Fears

The increased sales figures come amid uncertainty and redundancy fears ahead of the imminent end of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

These will be replaced with less generous job protection measures from November 1 as part of Sunak’s Winter Economy Plan.

They also come as the latest official jobs figures show a fall of 673,000 people employed since the start of the pandemic.

Stalled Brexit talks are also contributing to economic uncertainty in the UK.

The ONS figures come just days after the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) made a joint statement of 71 industry chiefs including Helen Dickinson, CEO of the British Retail Consortium, urging both sides of the stalled Brexit talks to get back to the negotiating table and broker a deal.

The ONS highlighted that despite small monthly dips online sales were 6.4 percent higher in September compared to February.