People crowd Oxford Street, one the main shopping streets in central London on December 14, 2013, with only two weekends to go until Christmas. AFP PHOTO/JUSTIN TALLIS

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has shown that total sales are outstripping 2019 in what it is calling ‘year-on-two-year’ data.

It is comparing this year’s retail figures to 2019 as shops were closed for much of 2020.

On a total sales basis, it reported, sales increased by 10% in May 2021 (Yo2Y), against a decline of 2.7% in May 2019 (YoY). This is above the three-month average growth of 8.5% (Yo2Y).

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Paul Martin, UK head of retail for KPMG, commented: “The rain in May failed to dampen consumer demand and shoppers continued to return to the high street.”

While clothing retailers saw the best footfall figures, jewellers were close behind with Martin adding: “Consumers also splurged on new jewellery, footwear and home accessories, with sales registering triple-digit growth against last year, when lockdown measures were in place.”

Meanwhile, Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, added: “Retail sales were buoyant in May thanks to the reopening of hospitality, coupled with the afterglow of non-essential retail’s own return.

“Pent-up demand for the instore shopping experience, as well as the first signs of summer weather, helped retail to the strongest sales growth of the pandemic.

“There is a growing sense of consumer confidence, boosted not only by the widespread uptake of vaccinations and testing, but also retailers’ own significant investment in safety measures.

“Large cities have been hardest hit by the pandemic, with so many people still working from home and footfall remaining considerably down as shoppers increasingly choose to shop local.

“Now is the time to consider what our future high streets and town centres will look like a decade from now.

“We must adapt to these changes, not only to build back better but also to build forward. With vacancy rates still rising in many parts of the country, we must reimagine how we integrate residential and commercial property, allowing us to build stronger local communities that encompass leisure, retail, services, and homes.

“This will require retailers, property developers and local government to work together and plan city centres that cater to these changing demands and truly innovate the high street model.”