The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that the UK’s retail sales were still in decline in the month of January due to ongoing lockdowns in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
January 2021 retail sales volumes decreased by 8.2% by comparison to December 2020, when non-essential retail was permitted to open for part of the month.
The ONS also revaled that retail sales volumes were 5.5% lower than before the pandemic in February 2020.
This is not as stark a decrease as seen in April 2020, the first full month of lockdown across the UK, when sales fell by a reported 22.2% compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Retailers classed as non-essential will be hoping that Boris Johnson’s recovery ‘roadmap’ today will bring news of a swift reopening.
The Prime Minister will address the Commons this afternoon, followed by a news conference at 7pm.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, discussing the impact on retail sales and footfall, said: “England’s third lockdown cut retail spending this month, as high street footfall remained down by over three quarters.
“Large non-food stores saw their thirteenth month of decline, increasing the risk of yet more retail stores being permanently shuttered.
“January’s lockdown has hit non-essential retailers harder than in November, with the new variant hampering consumer confidence and leading customers to limit spending, especially on fashion and textiles.
“Meanwhile, retailers have invested heavily in their online offering and click and collect services to ensure shoppers will still be able to access vital goods.
“Reviving our economy requires unlocking pent up demand that sits untapped in people’s savings accounts.
“The chancellor should therefore focus on unleashing, not stifling, demand, thus supporting the millions of jobs the retail industry supports in communities across the UK. Sadly, retail has been overpaying tax for too long.
“The industry is 5% of the economy, yet pays 10% of business taxes – this is neither fair nor sustainable.
“If Government wants to avoid further administrations of otherwise viable businesses, it must provide those firms which have been hardest hit by the pandemic with the necessary support.
“This means extending the moratorium on aggressive debt enforcement, removing EU state aid caps on support grants, and providing targeted business rates support to those companies worst affected by the pandemic.”