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19 Feb 2021 | 07:07

UK Jan retail sales plunge 8.2% as third lockdown hammers stores

(Sharecast News) - UK retail sales slumped in January as tighter nationwide coronavirus restrictions hammered department and clothing stores, official data revealed on Friday. Sales volumes slumped 8.2% compared with December, the biggest fall since April 2020, and far more than the 2.5% forecast by economists.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the figures reflected the impact of the third national lockdown imposed at the start of the month. Sales were down 5.5% year on year, although there was a surge in online spending during the month, with a rise of 35.2%, a record and up from December's 29.6%.

All non-essential shops had to shut again in January after a new lockdown was declared to stop the spread of new Covid-19 variants.

Sales fell in all sectors except for non-store retailers and food stores, which reported growth of 3.7% and 1.4% respectively. All store types reported higher online sales, with food stores reaching an historic high of 12.2% of sales conducted online.

Deputy National Statistician for Economic Statistics Jonathan Athow said department and clothing store sales were "particularly affected".

"However, the decrease seen this time was not as large as that of the first lockdown, as some stores have adapted to the current circumstances, with services such as click-and-collect helping to cushion the fall," he added.

"The share of online sales soared to a record high and accounted for over a third of total spending. It was also a strong month for food stores, due to the closure of pubs and restaurants."

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