UK retailers expect falling sales in July

Valentina Romei in London

UK retailers doubt that reopening non-essential shops will be sufficient to revive demand and prevent sale volumes from falling in July.

More than two in three retailers expect sales to be lower than the same month in 2019, the CBI monthly retail sector survey showed on Thursday. The share is largely unchanged since last month and is up from one in four retailers in March.

The labour market and businesses’ turnover remained depressed, separate figures from the Office for National Statistics showed, while online job adverts in catering and hospitality rose from 20 per cent from its 2019 level on June 12 to 27 per cent on June 19.

“Despite retailers working flat out to make sure they are safe and ready to open their doors, outside the grocery sector most retailers expect sales to be far below where they were this time last year,” said Rain Newton-Smith, chief economist at the employers’ organisation.

The survey, conducted between May 27 and June 12 which comes at a time when the government relaxed some of its coronavirus restrictions, revealed that the overall level of sales in July is expected to be poor.

Retailers have struggled from a lack of demand, with 62 per cent of respondents saying that’s a key challenge, plus growing piles of stocks. Expectations for low demand and sales led to fewer orders for suppliers: two in three said they were lower compared with last year, a proportion largely unchanged when looking at expectations for July.

Online sales however have performed above the long-term average and retailers expect them to increase at a faster clip in July. About two in five retailers reported level of stocks above the adequate levels, a proportion that increases marginally when asked about expectations for July.

Online sales made up less than a fifth of total retail sales before the pandemic, according to the ONS, but the proportion has since risen to 33 per cent.

This chart, from the ONS, shows how online shopping has soared in Britain during the pandemic.

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