Total retail sales bounce back to pre-coronavirus levels


Overall retail sales have returned to a similar level to before the coronavirus pandemic after two months of increases, official figures show.

However, latest data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals a mixed picture for different store types.

In June, the volume of retail sales increased by 13.9% when compared with the previous month as non-food and fuel stores continued to rally from the sharp falls experienced since the start of the COVID-19 crisis.

This was the second consecutive month of strong growth following record declines in March and April.

The rises seen in May and June have brought total sales back in line with pre-coronavirus levels, according to the ONS.

When compared with February, the amount of sales was down by just 0.6%.

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However, while non-food stores and fuel sales in June showed strong growth with sales at 45.5% and 21.5% respectively, levels have still not recovered from the sharp falls seen in March and April.

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But food stores and online retailing both reached new high levels since the start of the pandemic, with grocery sales up 5.3% and non-store sales 53.6% higher, than February.

The amount of online spending fell to 31.8% in June when compared with the record 33.3% reported in May, but still remains well up on the 20% seen in February.

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While many petrol stations remained open throughout the pandemic they experienced sharp falls in March and April because of travel restrictions.

From May, sales started to recover with the easing of government rules, increasing by a record 47.4%, and this growth continued in June with a hike of 21.5% when compared with the previous month.

However, despite the increases, sales still remain 30.3% lower than February.

A similar picture is seen with non-food stores, such as clothing retailers, which was one of the hardest-hit sectors during the pandemic as many were deemed non-essential.

Despite strong growth, sales have not currently returned to the levels seen before lockdown, and remain down 15% compared to February.

Clothing and shoe shops showed the sharpest decline in the sector, remaining down 34.9% from February, with a 50.8% drop in store sales not matched by a 26.8% rise online.

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