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Online spending from clothing, footwear and department stores rose in April, ONS reveals

Jeremy Lim
20 May 2022

Following months of slowdown, online sales grew for the first time since January, rising to 27%, up from 26% in March amid the rise in holiday bookings and lifting of remaining COVID-19 restrictions.

Purchases from clothing, footwear and department stores make up the biggest proportion of online retail sales, with textile, clothing and footwear stores making up 26.2% of online retail sales in April and department stores sales reaching 21.7%.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) also revealed that inflation hit 9% in the year to April today, measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), thought to be the highest figure in 40 years.

Retail sales volumes rose by 1.4% in April 2022 following a fall of 1.2% in March 2022, while sales volumes were 4.1% above their pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) February 2020 levels.

Non-store retailing sales volumes, which are predominantly sales from online-only retailers, rose by 3.7% in April 2022 led by stronger clothing sales.

Department stores and clothing stores both reported a monthly increase of 1.3% in sales volumes. Feedback from some retailers suggested that the pick-up in clothing was because of customers booking events such as weddings and holidays.

In the three months to April 2022, sales volumes fell by 0.3% when compared with the previous three months, continuing the downward trend since summer 2021.

Online spending values rose in April 2022 by 6.2% when compared with March 2022, driven by a strong increase in non-store retailing (11.3%) and clothing stores (3.6%). Despite the increase in April, the proportion of online sales has broadly fallen since its peak in February 2021 (37.6%). However, it is substantially above its level of 19.9% in February 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Responding to the figures, Helen Dickinson, CEO of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said: “Retail sales are being squeezed by a combination of low demand, high inflation and rising costs. The fall in demand comes as consumers reign in their discretionary spending following a significant reduction to real incomes for households across the UK. Meanwhile, retailers face higher food and commodity prices, increased shipping and transport costs, and the tightest labour market in decades.

“Retailers are working hard to support their customers by keeping costs down where they can, and expanding affordable ranges, however it is impossible to mitigate all the costs coming through their supply chains. Until inflation is brought to heel, and consumer confidence returns, retailers could be in for some difficult times ahead, with lower demand and reduced margins.”

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