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UK retail sales increase in October thanks to early Christmas shoppers

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British shoppers unexpectedly increased their spending in October as it seemed to drive Christmas spending primarily online before closing most of the non-essential stores in the UK in November.

According to US Census Bureau data, retail sales rose 1.2 percent compared to September for the sixth consecutive month.

This increase was far stronger than Reuters polled economists predicted no change.

Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician for economic statistics at ONS, said: “Retail sales continued strong growth in recent years, despite the introduction of some regional closures in October.

“Feedback from the store suggested that some consumers may have brought Christmas shopping ahead of potential additional restrictions. The online store has also done well, fueled by a wide range of offers.”

Compared to February, before the outbreak of the epidemic, retail sales increased by 6.7%.

“These numbers suggest the degree of consumer resilience that is essential for recovery,” said James Sproule, chief economist at Bank Handelsbanken.

The shift to online shopping due to the epidemic was once again faster in October, with sales in stores without physical stores increasing by 6.4% from the previous month and by 45% from the February level.

Department stores have embraced digital transformation, with Internet sales nearly doubling compared to October last year, accounting for nearly a third of total sales in the month. Active online shopping has helped department store sales grow to an average of over 3.1% in October.

Overall, 28% of spending was made online, up from 19% in October last year.

Lynda Petherick, Head of Retail for Advisory Firm Accenture UK, said: “While retailers are plagued by the surge in online shipping, it’s clear that e-commerce will be an important factor for success.

“With Black Friday and Christmas coming shortly and all non-essential retail outlets closed in the UK in November, many retailers are seeing a new wave of consumers turning online shopping to test the strengths of e-commerce and shipping capabilities. . .”

Most store types reported growth of 3.2% per month, including household goods stores in October, but the fashion segment broke the trend. Sales were still 14% lower than in February and 1.2% lower than in September.

Retail sales have outperformed other parts of the economy as consumers switch from services like going to a gym to buying goods, including sports equipment.

“For many families, power consumption has increased due to holiday cancellations, reduced commute times, and fewer eating out, and this filtering is expanding as part of the segment,” said Richard Lim, Chief Executive Officer of Retail Economics Consulting.

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However, analysts predicted a decline in sales this month as most of the non-essential stores were closed with the introduction of closures in the UK on November 5th.

James Smith, economist at investment bank ING, said: “The lockdown will inevitably hit retail as most stores close again. However, despite the huge gap between online retailers and busy streets, there are a few reasons I think this sector will recover fairly quickly. “

Samuel Tombs, UK chief economist at consulting firm Pantheon Macroeconomics, predicted a 10% decline in November sales compared to the previous month. It’s a smaller drop than the spring’s national closure period, reflecting that “both consumers and retailers have adapted to online ordering and fulfillment, while non-essential retailers can remain open for click-and-collect orders.” .

In the EU, retail sales were already shrinking in September. While many economies tightened early restrictions, growth slowed in October in the United States.

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