Clothing sales volumes rose by 0.7 per cent in August – the only sector to experience an increase across the board. According to the latest ONS figures, retail sales fell by 0.9 per cent last month overall compared to the previous month, following a 2.8 per cent decline in July.
However, volumes were up by 0.3 per cent in the three months to August compared to the previous three months while sales figures were up by 4.6 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels in February 2020.
Non-food stores as a whole saw monthly sales volumes fall by 1.0 per cent in August 2021 and were 0.4 per cent below their pre-coronavirus pandemic levels in February 2020.
Department stores reported a fall of 3.7 per cent in monthly sales volumes in August 2021, following falls each month since April 2021. Department store sales volumes were 5.2 per cent below their pre-coronavirus pandemic February 2020 levels.
Supply chain issues are hitting retailers, with 6.5 per cent reporting they were not able to access the materials, goods or services needed from within the UK. Department stores were hit the hardest at 18.2 per cent followed by clothing retailers at 11.1 per cent.
Another 11.1 per cent of clothing retailers said they were able to obtain stock and materials needed but had to change suppliers or find alternatives.
Emma-Lou Montgomery, associate director at Fidelity International, comments: “After a dramatic fall in July, retail sales volumes overall fell once again in August as shoppers stayed away from the high street. Now, with fewer than 100 days now until Christmas, retailers will be desperately hoping to see the boost in sales that traditionally goes hand in hand with the festive period. There do appear to be some signs of optimism, with John Lewis and Waitrose announcing they will be hiring thousands of extra workers to support the festive shopping season. And with the summer proving so disappointing, retailers will no doubt be hoping to pick up the slack with key shopping dates like Black Friday.
“But plenty of challenges stand in their way. Recovery has been bumpy across the sector with many retailers dealing with supply chain disruption and labour shortages. Rising prices across the board will also be starting to pile pressure on households and could continue to hamper buying habits down the line.”