Early Christmas shopping helps boost retail sales

Early Christmas shopping helps boost retail sales

Early Christmas shopping and discounting by stores helped to lift UK retail sales in October, the latest official figures have indicated.

Sales rose by 1.2% last month, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, the sixth month in a row that sales have increased.

Retailers said some shoppers appeared to have started Christmas shopping early ahead of new Covid restrictions.

Online stores did well, but clothing sales weakened, the ONS said.

Deputy national statistician for economic statistics Jonathan Athow said: “Despite the introduction of some local lockdowns in October, retail sales continued its recent run of strong growth.

“Feedback from shops suggested some consumers may have brought forward their Christmas shopping, ahead of potential further restrictions. Online stores also saw strong sales, boosted by widespread offers.

“However, the slow recovery in clothing sales has stalled after five consecutive months of increased sales.”

The October rise was mainly driven by sales outside of traditional bricks and mortar stores.

This type of retailing, which includes online, has “showed strength over the course of the pandemic and remained at high levels”, the ONS said.

But on the High Street, local coronavirus restrictions in October led to reduced footfall, which hit clothing stores.

Fuel sales were also flat, and remained below their pre-March lockdown level, due to reduced traffic on the roads, the ONS added.

In a commentary, Capital Economics said the sales figures – and also the latest government borrowing figures – “suggests that that the economy held up better than expected when the Covid-19 tiered restrictions were being implemented”.

However, the economists said retail sales would fall again in November because of the fresh lockdown.

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