Promising signs but not out of the woods

On a Total basis, sales increased considerably over in the period following reopening and by 7.3% across the month of April compared to April 2019.

2020 was a turbulent year in which much of retail bounced between being open and closed.

2020 was a turbulent year in which much of retail bounced between being open and closed, significantly impacting sales and the ability to make meaningful comparisons. In this context, all 2021 figures are compared with 2019 (pre-pandemic). This means our 2021 figures are now year-on-two-years (Yo2Y), rather than year-on-year (YoY).

Covering the four weeks 4 April – 1 May 2021

  • On a Total basis, sales increased considerably over in the period following reopening and by 7.3% across the month of April compared to April 2019. This is above the 3-month average growth of 6.0%.
  • UK retail sales increased 46.3% on a Like-for-Like basis from April 2019, when they had increased 3.7% from the preceding year. Online sales play a far greater role in LFL, so has increased the growth rate significantly.
  • Over the three months to April, In-Store sales of Non-Food items declined 30.9% on a Total and increased 1.6% on a Like-for-Like basis. This is worse than the 2019 Total average decline of 3.1%.
  • Over the three months to April, Food sales increased 9.9% on a Like-for-Like basis and 10.3% on a Total basis. This is higher than the 2019 Total average growth of 1.4%. For the month of April, Food was in growth year-on-year.
  • Over the three-months to April, Non-Food retail sales increased by 25.1% on a Like-for-Like basis and 2.4% on a Total basis. This is above the 2019 Total average decline of 1.3%. For the month of April, Non-Food was in growth year-on-year.
  • In the three weeks following the reopening of stores, Non-Food sales increased by approximately 25% in comparison to the levels of spending seen during the previous month under lockdown.
  • Online Non-Food sales increased by 57.4% in April, against a growth of 4.3% in April 2019. This is below the 3-month average of 82.5%.
  • Non-Food Online penetration rate decreased from 68.8% in April 2020 to 41.5% this April.


Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive | British Retail Consortium

“Following the reopening of so-called non-essential stores on 12th April in England and Wales and continued online growth, retail sales enjoyed a welcome boost last month. With the short-term pent-up demand for the shopping experience drawing consumers back to stores, non-food sales across stores and online increased by a quarter between March and April. It is great to see customers feeling confident visiting shops, a testament to the ongoing investment by retailers in making their stores, warehouses, and deliveries Covid-secure. Many fashion retailers saw an uptick in sales, particularly in outerwear and knitwear, as the public braved the cold spring weather for outdoor meeting and dining with friends. Furniture also saw a boost as consumers can once again try before they buy. However, this sales growth is fragile. There is little competition for share of spending while parts of hospitality, leisure, and tourism remain restricted and inner cities and town centres continue to perform poorly as many people continue to work from home. 

“While the boost in sales is positive as the industry continues to invest in safety and the online offer, high streets still have a long way to go on the path to recovery. There are 530,000 people who work in retail still on furlough. This and the end of the full business rates relief in England in June jeopardises the future of many stores and the livelihoods of those who depend on them. The Government must deliver on its promise to reform the broken rates system in their ongoing review and reduce the financial burden on retailers, or risk more unnecessary store closures and job losses.”  

Paul Martin, UK Head of Retail | KPMG

“Retailers will be delighted with the way the re-opening of the high street was greeted by shoppers eager to get into stores and engage once more with physical shopping.

“Remembering that this time last year we were in lockdown, there are some outstanding growth figures in April especially in non-food within categories such as jewellery, accessories and footwear which all registered triple digit growth. Clothing retailers, who have been particularly hard hit by store closures during lockdown, were the biggest beneficiaries of pent up demand as consumers headed out to re-stock their wardrobes in anticipation of social events being back on the agenda.

“Online sales continued to grow across most categories, but at a reduced rate as many consumers stepped away from their computers to head outside. This maybe has come as a surprise, although it does showcase that some changes in consumer behaviour are here to stay.

“Conditions will remain challenging as Government support tails away over the summer and interest and repayments on CBILS and bounce back loans will need to start being paid back, alongside deferred rental payments.  Retailers face an interesting few month as they assess the level at which online shopping falls back and full re-opening of the hospitality sector will likely see a dilution in retail spend in favour of leisure, entertainment and hospitality.  Retailers will be hoping that with the increasing positive signs of the economy improving, market conditions offer scope to spark a big surge in consumer spending this summer.”

Food & Drink sector performance | Susan Barratt, CEO | IGD

“April was a landmark month for food and drink retailers as non-essential retail reopened from the middle of the month and the out-of-home sector started to re-emerge. However, the year-on-year impact for supermarkets is hard to determine due to the different timings of Easter, but the week-on-week data indicates food and drink sales slowed from mid-April, although some momentum was regained towards the end of the month. Inevitably, food and drink will settle at a reduced rate of growth as the competitive landscape normalises but also as the tough lockdown comparatives from 2020 persist for the next few months.

“The easing of lockdown restrictions coupled with the reduced threat of COVID-19 has helped push IGD’s Shopper Confidence Index to its highest level in five years. This will likely be boosted over the summer as the economy opens further, which will be good for retail and foodservice.”


For Media Enquiries:

Sophie De Salis
BRC Press Office
T: 020 7854 8924
M: 07515 053449
E: /


Emma Murray
PR Manager, KPMG
T: 0207 694 6506
M: 07920 870 623


Laura John

Corporate Communications Manager, IGD

T: 01923 851986

M: 07453 018505

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