Early Christmas shopping gave UK retailers a surprise boost in October despite local lockdowns

Early Christmas shopping gave UK retailers a surprise boost in October despite local lockdowns

Early Christmas shopping helped boost UK retail sales in October, despite tighter restrictions introduced across much of the country, official figures indicate.

Sales volumes rose 1.2 per cent in October, surpassing forecasts of a 0.3 per cent fall.

Online shopping drove retail sales higher for the sixth consecutive month.

In-store sales were 3.3 per cent lower in October than in the same month last year, while website sales were up 52.8 per cent, the Office for National Statistics reported.

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.”

Clothing retailers reported a 14 per cent slump in sales values in October, as store sales plunged by 22.1 per cent. However, online sales of clothes increased by 17.1 per cent for the month.

Meanwhile, total food sales increased by 3.4 per cent after another surge in online purchases.

Ian Geddes, head of retail at Deloitte, said: “While 2020 has seen significant behavioural change among consumers, some lockdown habits look set to stay. Most notable is the shift to online shopping, accounting for 28.5 per cent of all sales by value this month as consumers fully embrace the convenience of e-commerce, and another national lockdown keeps non-essential shops closed.

“With large Christmas Day gatherings this year uncertain, it is likely that consumers will be making more considered purchases over the coming weeks for those that can afford it.

“Many will buy early to ensure gifts reach their recipients in time and, in a year that has celebrated key workers and community spirit, gifts that ‘give back’ or support local businesses are also likely to be popular.”