Retailers reported record results across fashion, lifestyle and homeware and sustained growth of online sales in April, as consumer confidence was boosted by the easing of lockdown and progress with the COVID-19 vaccination programme, new figures from accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP reveal.
According to BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker (HSST), non-store like for like sales grew by +28.2% in April from a base of +109.6% last year, a remarkable result given last year’s record increase in online spending during the first nationwide lockdown. With online sales continuing to hold up even after shops have reopened, the result suggests both a rebound in consumer confidence and discretionary spending but also that shifts in consumer behaviour towards greater online shopping are ‘sticking’.
Total like-for-like (LFL) sales, both in-store and non-store, increased sixfold in April, though from a weak base of -29.6% for the equivalent month last year. As non-essential retail reopened after three months of lockdown, all three sectors recorded historic highs, caveated by the severe drought for absolute sales revenues last year. Whilst these results may appear staggering, it is important to note the weak base used for the comparison and that for some retailers, closing stores in April meant negligible sales.
All three sectors recorded positive results in April with lifestyle and fashion staging impressive comebacks.
Lifestyle total like-for-like sales soared by +64.3% in April, but from a base of -40.1% for the equivalent month last year. The result marks the second straight month of positive like-for-like sales for total lifestyle and the first time since October 2020 that every week recorded positive results.
Fashion total like-for-like sales surged by +84.2% this month, though from a base of -31.4% for April last year. The sector remained strong throughout the month with April marking the second consecutive month of positive like-for-like sales as clothing sales sprung back to life after shoppers invested in their post-lockdown wardrobes.
Homeware total like-for-like sales also rose in April, though compared to a dire comparative result for April 2020 when the closure of in-store channels constricted sales. This time last year, homeware retailers were striving to find new ways of engaging with the customers, given that many had previously heavily relied on physical shopping space. Many did this relatively quickly which was shown through the strong results in later months and the desire of consumers to spend on their homes.
Sophie Michael, Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO LLP, said: “April’s results reflect a timely shift in the consumer mindset, with pent-up demand and renewed confidence providing a euphoric reopening for the high street.
“We don’t know, however, if this euphoria will last and if sustained confidence around personal finances will continue to prop up spending or fade as restrictions ease and ‘normality’ resumes.
“The figures also illustrate a clear shift in consumer behaviour with online sales holding up strongly even as shops reopened. Some retailers may well have experienced significantly higher online figures than in store, despite opening their physical stores. This demonstrates the importance of continuing to focus across all channels and ensuring that they are viewed as one when engaging with the customer.
“Obviously, there is still a long road ahead, but retailers will be crossing their fingers that these positive signs translate into a lasting recovery driven by confidence and discretionary spend. Many will also be hoping that the easing of restrictions on 21 June will unleash a further wave of consumer spending.”
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Erin Dodds or Sophie Isles
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