Commenting on the Office of National Statistics retail sales figures for November 2021
Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said:
“With consumers shopping earlier for Christmas, as well as pent-up demand after the second national lockdown cast a shadow over Black Friday in 2020, it was no surprise that November’s retail sales were 6.9% ahead of last year excluding petrol, and 11.5% higher than before the pandemic in February 2020.
“Pleasingly, almost every category of retail benefited, with even the hardest hit sectors such as fashion powering ahead of pre-pandemic levels. In fact, the only slowdown was online, which saw its share of overall retail decline, as shoppers returned to retail parks and high streets.
“But a month is a long time in retail. The worst that high streets had to contend with in November was the aftermath of Storm Arwen. By the beginning of December, the effects of the Omicron variant had begun to impact across the UK, and footfall has already begun to drop in city centres as shoppers heed advice to work from home and reduce household mixing.
“Fortunately for retailers, this year’s trend towards shopping earlier for Christmas will have reduced the impact on all important festive sales, and multichannel and online retailers may even benefit in the run up to Christmas itself. But the lingering uncertainty of how the variant will play out, the possibility of further restrictions, and the ongoing challenges of supply chain, staff shortages and cost headwinds, mean that the New Year may not bring the respite that the retail industry so badly needs.”
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