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PwC comments on April's ONS retail sales figures

Commenting on the Office of National Statistics Retail sales figures for April 2020

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said:

“With most shops and high streets closed throughout April, the record 18% fall in retail sales announced today does not come as a surprise. Retail sales fell to 2005 levels, reversing 15 years of growth.

Almost every category of retail has been affected by the lockdown, with even grocery retailers experiencing some sales decline. This follows both the stockpiling in March plus impact of the lockdown on the usual boost that Easter family gatherings and celebrations provide.

Although many of us turned to online shopping, it seems it was unable to pick up the slack, even with the proportion of online sales growing to almost a third - a figure that many had forecast we would not achieve until the end of the 2020s.

However bad April’s figures are, we believe that retail has reached a turning point in the Covid-19 crisis. In the short term, May has already seen a loosening of lockdown restrictions across all the home nations.  Indeed, enterprising operators have begun to reopen cautiously, from garden centres to some furniture stores coming back for the bank holiday weekend.

We know from our monthly consumer sentiment survey that Britons are remarkably resilient in spite of the current crisis, and that incomes for many have been partially protected by the furlough scheme and other government assistance.

So we expect shoppers to return to the high streets as soon as they’re able. And that can’t come too soon for a sector that has experienced the greatest shock in living memory in the course of the last two months.”



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Diana Yeboah

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