Retail sales jump in August as online boom offsets struggling high streets


Retail sales jumped higher last month as shoppers spent more money online – but city centre shops have seen their struggles continue, according to new figures.

The latest BRC-KMPG retail sales monitor revealed that total UK retail sales increased by 4.7% on a like-for-like basis compared to the same month a year earlier.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said high levels of home working have continued to drive growth in online sales.

She said: “Despite another month of growth in August, retail sales remain down overall since the start of the pandemic.

“Remote working has continued to help sales in home goods, such as food, computing, furniture and TVs.

“Meanwhile, city centre retailers continue to be devastated by low footfall and poor sales, as office workers stayed away for yet another month.”

She said clothing, footwear and beauty retailers have particularly “struggled” as a result of lower high street footfall.

Over the three months to August, in-store sales of non-food items slid by 17.8%, according to the new research.

However, total non-food retail sales increased by 7.7% on a like-for-like basis as they were buoyed by a significant jump in online sales.

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, said: “We continue to experience mixed fortunes and not all retailers are where they should be at this point in the year.

“Fashion sales did start to rebound somewhat – at least online – although this was mainly driven by children’s back-to-school purchases.

“Likewise, the focus on home-related products, including furniture and computing equipment, continued – no doubt aided by many consumers remaining mostly at home.”

Meanwhile, like-for-like food sales increased by 6.3% over the three months to August.

Susan Barratt, chief executive officer of IGD, said: “Following further easing of lockdown restrictions, consumer spending on food continues to return to more usual patterns.

“Grocery sales put in a solid performance compared to August 2019, despite a much cooler summer bank holiday at the end of the month for English and Welsh shoppers.

“The ongoing normalisation of consumer spending has also been helped by the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which gave the out-of-home sector a significant and much-needed boost.”