Shoppers showed no fear in the first weeks after non-essential retail was permitted to reopen in the UK according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released today (Friday, 21 May).

There were expected increases in footfall and sales by comparison to recent months when non-essential shops were closed due to lockdown restrictions.

However, the statistics even showed retail performing better than February 2020 – the month prior to the UK’s first lockdown.

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The ONS said that sales volumes were 10.6% higher than February 2020, before the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Elsewhere, retail sales volumes grew sharply in April 2021 with a monthly increase of 9.2%.

The ONS also said that non-food stores gave the largest contribution to the monthly growth in April 2021 sales volumes, aided by increases of 69.4% and 25.3% in clothing stores and other non-food stores respectively.

Meanwhile, all retail sectors reported a decrease in the proportions of online sales as physical stores re-opened during the month.

The total proportion of sales online decreased to 30.0% in April 2021, down from 34.7% in March 2021.

Jackie Mulligan, an expert on the High Streets Task Force and founder of local shopping platform ShopAppy.com, said: “In April, there was a perfect combination of pent-up demand and savings to spend. We had fantastic reports from our local businesses, with some owners receiving gifts from local customers on reopening, and many reporting being busier than they expected.

“It is clear that there has been a pent-up demand to pop into shops for months. The pandemic has put hyper-local shopping very much on the map, which is great news for high streets around the UK.

“Sustaining local recovery will rely on customers continuing to support local and understanding that shopping local is for life, not just for lockdown.”

Meanwhile, Michelle Cunningham, owner of online boutique Tarelle Accessories, revealed: “As an online retailer of ladies’ fashion accessories, we have continued to experience growth in our sales in the past two months.

“We are very happy that the high street has opened up again but we are feeling a bit anxious that, after an incredible year of sales, we might experience a drop. However that has not happened.”