Commenting on the Office of National Statistics retail sales figures for January 2021
Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said:
“With non-essential high street retail all but closed last month, it was no surprise that retail sales declined by -8.3% compared with December, and by -4.3% compared with last January.
“However, there are signs that retailers have adapted better to the latest lockdown. While non-grocery stores took the brunt of the pain, with sales volumes declining by a quarter, they were still over 50% higher than in the first lockdown last April.
“As with last year, online made up the slack, with consumers turning to their phones and PCs to shop in record levels. Over 35% of retail sales were online in January, even higher than the previous peak of 34% in May 2020. And with less demand than the traditional Christmas period, online penetration of grocery sales also reached a new peak of over 12%.
“Looking forward, all eyes will be on the Prime Minister’s announcement of a reopening timetable expected this Monday - as well as the Budget on 3 March. While the first quarter of the year is traditionally quieter for retailers, stores will be hoping that a rapid re-opening will allow shoppers to spend what they may have saved by postponing holidays and not going out during the lockdowns.
“Retailers will also be hoping for extensions to government support, such as the furlough scheme beyond April, and the commercial property moratorium on evictions and the business rates holiday beyond March, as has already happened in Scotland.”
Manager, media relations, PwC United Kingdom
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