Halloween and panic buying boosted October retail sales

Britain’s October retail sales saw an overall increase year on year of 4.8 per cent in value, but this was set against a backdrop of negative results in October 2019.

With circuit breaker lockdowns in the devolved nations, the tiered system in England and England’s national lockdown looming, the small bounce back we saw in clothing stores is set against the highest decrease in footfall at 78.9 year on year.

The online penetration of all retail sales has increased by 60.1 per cent year on year to 28.5 per cent in October 2020.

Jacqui Baker, retail director at RSM, said: ‘It was an admirable performance by retailers in October, given the tiered restrictions in England and the circuit breaker lockdowns in both Scotland and Wales. Even so, the difference between retail winners and losers remains stark.

‘With Halloween falling on a Saturday and the general languor with socialising restrictions for many across the UK, families went all out this year. Coupled with England’s impending national lockdown and a subsequent uptick in food stockpiling, sales saw a boost. With early indications of Christmas shopping, this trend is set to stay, with families filling the void between November and the uncertain Christmas period, with festive comfort food and celebration at home.

‘Online penetration was waning in the months leading up to October but with the introduction of England’s tiered system and the strongest restrictions falling in key commercial centres like Manchester and Liverpool, eCommerce spend picked up again. There’s no doubt that November will see a further boost to online sales with non-essential stores across England closed.

‘The big concern now is for clothing and accessories. Sales were slowly gaining momentum, but with more restrictions on socialising the need for new winterwear faded, illustrated clearly in this month’s results. What they need is the hope of a normal Christmas and a clear indication of when England’s lockdown will end. Both still hang very much in the balance for now.

‘The golden festive period should be the most exciting time of year for retailers but the pressure on margins during Black Friday and Christmas trading will be an endurance test for many. Let’s hope that news of a vaccine gives consumers the confidence they need to get out and spend.

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