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PwC comments on September 2020 ONS retail sales figures

Oct 23, 2020

Commenting on the Office of National Statistics retail sales figures for September 2020

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said:

“With subdued footfall following August’s bounceback coinciding with Eat Out To Help Out, we might have expected retail sales to slow down commensurately. But there’s been no sign of this. Excluding petrol, retail sales increased by 1.5% in September on an already strong August, and by 6.0% compared with this time last year.

“In fact, almost every measure of retail sales saw growth last month, with even non-grocery in-store sales above pre-pandemic levels, in spite of lower footfall levels, and the continued popularity of online shopping - now 27.5% of total UK sales.

“This is a clear continuation of trends we’ve seen in previous months, with PwC’s measure of consumer sentiment both robust and better than this time last year, and some consumers having saved money by postponing holidays and going out less. The grocery sector received a bounce as consumers started to revert to eating at home and with early signs of stocking up for Autumn.

“However, as retail enters the critical Golden Quarter in the run up to Christmas, challenges lie ahead. Local lockdowns and the discouragement of non-essential travel are likely to depress high street footfall further. And in Wales they are going as far as the closure of non-essential retail from this weekend. As the government Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme winds down to be replaced by less generous programmes, the prospect of increased unemployment may weigh on consumer spending in future months.

“Retailers will have their fingers crossed that the positive momentum that has brought them out of the first national lockdown as one of the strongest sectors of recovery can last until the end of the year.”

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