Retail sales volumes rose sharply in April, which reflected the effect of easing coronavirus restrictions and the reopening of all ‘non-essential’ retail.

Sales for the month of April 2021 increased 9.2%, with non-food stores providing the largest contribution to the monthly growth in sales volumes, according to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) data. 

This was the third consecutive month of recovery in retail sales, following growth in both March (5.1%) and February (1.8%).

The strongest monthly growth in April 2021 was driven by clothing stores, with sales up 69.4%, followed by other non-food stores (25.3%) and automotive fuel retailers (10.6%).

Retail sales volumes were 42.4% higher than in April 2020, when the UK was still in the midst of the first national lockdown, while sales volumes were 10.6% higher than February 2020, before the pandemic hit. 

In another encouraging hint for bricks-and-mortar retailers, all categories reported a fall in their online sales as physical stores reopened.

Total online sales for the month decreased to 30%, down from 34.7% in March 2021.

With the partial reopening of hospitality during the month, food retail sales were also affected. The ONS figures found that food retail sales slipped 0.9%, following three consecutive months of growth up to December 2020. 

Despite this fall, food store sales remain considerably higher than their pre-pandemic level, with sales in April 2021 8.6% higher than in February 2020.

Online food spending saw the largest decline in ecommerce sales, down 11.4%. Overall ecommerce spending slipped 5.6% compared with the previous month.

  • Never miss a story – sign up to Retail Week’s breaking news alerts