Retail experts are finally reporting the early signs of a recovery for the retail sector after a lukewarm return to normalcy since ‘Freedom Day’ earlier in the year.

Now, however, experts are cautiously optimistic that Christmas shopping will serve to bring footfall back to high streets, and the hope in the sector is that the return of shoppers will last long past Q4 2021.

On a total basis, sales increased by 1.3% in October, against a growth of 4.9% in October 2020.

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The BRC also reported that, over the three months to October, non-food retail sales increased by 1.8% on a total basis and decreased by 0.1% on a like-for-like basis.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Customer demand is getting back on track ahead of Christmas as sales grew at a faster rate than the month prior, and well above its pre-pandemic levels. As social calendars started filling up with festivities, [fashion] sales performed well.

“Retailers are hopeful that demand will continue right through the golden quarter, however, there are challenges ahead with higher prices on the horizon compounded by the many increasing costs faced by consumers such as higher energy bills and rising national insurance.”

Meanwhile, Paul Martin, UK head of retail for KPMG, said: “October provided a modest boost for the high street as total retail sales grew by 1.3% compared to last year.

“Confident consumers are heading to physical stores to make purchases, as online sales fell yet again in October, although with penetration rates at 42% online shopping remains significantly higher than pre-Covid-19 levels.

“The much reported squeeze on household spending has yet to materialise as consumers seem happy to carry on shopping. Limited availability of stock has created strong pricing dynamics, which means we are unlikely to see any big discounting this Christmas, and many retailers will be hoping consumers are willing to buy the most sought after gifts at any price.

“With rising costs putting a strain on most retailers, they will be placing all hopes that demand remains strong as consumers plan for a bumper Christmas, shopping early for those much wanted gifts and spending more than last year when Christmas gatherings were cancelled. The main concern is now how trade will develop post-Christmas into 2022.”