January retail sales bounce back after Omicron disruption
Shoppers returned to the high street in droves last month as UK retail sales rebounded after the impact of the Omicron variant of coronavirus and the easing of related restrictions, new figures show.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said sales rose by 1.9% in January, meaning they were 3.6% above pre-pandemic levels. However, it came after a 4% fall in December when shoppers stayed at home in the run-up to Christmas as Omicron spread rapidly.
ONS director of economic statistics Darren Morgan said: “After a sluggish December, where the Omicron wave had a significant impact, retail sales rebounded in January with their biggest monthly rise since the shops reopened last spring.”
The rebound in sales was buoyed by strong home improvement demand, as people sought to spruce up their properties at the start of the year.
Morgan added: “Following a rise in high street footfall towards the end of the month, the proportion of online sales dropped to its lowest level since March 2020.”
James McDonald, Retail Partner at Deloitte, commented: “Retailers avoided the January blues as consumers made use of end-of-season discounting. Both sales values and volumes recovered from December’s subdued performance, increasing by 2.0% and 1.9%, respectively.
“Today’s figures form the initial sketches of a more positive picture for retail recovery in 2022. Despite worries about inflation, consumers continued to spend. The loosening of restrictions has resulted in more consumers heading to the high street and boosting overall in-store footfall.”