Clothing sales strong in April as shoppers prepare for summer, reveals latest ONS data

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Shoppers bought more clothes in April than the month before, with sales volumes rising by 1.3 per cent. Fashion had a strong month, particularly online, as consumers began preparing for summer holidays and special events.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) reports a 1.4 per cent rise in retail sales in April overall, but said the jump was largely driven by supermarket sales. Food store sales volumes rose by 2.8 per cent last month, with alcohol and tobacco sales notably increasing.

However,  in the three months to April 2022, retail sales volumes fell by 0.3 per cent when compared with the previous three months – continuing the downward trend since summer 2021.

Clothing now has the biggest proportion of sales taking place online than any other product sector, with 26.2 per cent of transactions made via e-commerce in April. Online sales overall rose from 25.9 per cent in March to 27 per cent in April – remaining substantially higher than its pre-pandemic level of 19.9 per cent in February 2020.  

Government High Streets Task Force expert and ShopAppy founder Dr Jackie Mulligan warns indies are struggling despite the figures: “The three month period to April is a far better gauge of what’s happening. People are clearly spending more on staying in, and more did it from their sofas in April. The shift online is here to stay and the beneficiaries appear to be billion pound businesses rather than small independents. 

“Strong sales of alcohol, tobacco and sweets may well highlight the growing anxiety among households. This isn’t a cost-of-living crisis, it’s a cost of living catastrophe. Small independent retailers, many of whom have lots of debt accrued during the pandemic, are being kicked while they’re down.  We’re urging people to shop local whenever they can and spend their money with small businesses.”

Alan Thomas, UK CEO at Simply Business, one of the UK’s largest providers of small business insurance, adds: “A surprising boost in retail sales will support the thousands of small business owners who are still in the crucial post-pandemic recovery phase. Not only are they battling rising costs, but also supply shortages, soaring energy bills, and a loss of customers.

“The UK’s six million small businesses account for 99 per cent of all businesses in the country and contribute trillions of pounds to the economy every year. When addressing the cost-of-living crisis, the government cannot forget the crucial role every small business owner plays to the health of our country. To avoid a recession, it’s vital that small businesses are given the support they need to bounce back.”