Despite the uplift, the BRC and KPMG have warned challenges and longer-term consequences remain.
The joint British Retail Consortium-KPMG monitor reported total UK sales up 3.4%, on the same month last year, as lockdown measures were eased, and warmer weather encouraged shoppers back to the high street. The sales uplift was against a 1.6% fall in June 2019 and was the sharpest monthly rise since May 2018.
The report said June’s growth was the first since lockdown, outperforming the average decline of 6.4% over the previous three months. Despite footfall still being well below pre-coronavirus levels, average spend was up as consumers made the most of more focused shopping trips.
However, despite signs of a gradual recovery, the British Retail Consortium has warned that significant pressure remains for high street retailers, as many consumers continue to stay away from shops while health risks remain from Covid-19.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, commented: “Though a month of growth is welcome news, retail is not out of the woods yet. The government must remain open to further action to boost consumer demand and should take steps to support with rent costs or the industry could suffer thousands of avoidable job losses.” Over the latest three months sales of non-food goods dropped by 47%.
Online sales have picked up some of the decline in demand, with sales of non-food items rising by 48.2% in June, according to the BRC and Barclaycard. A survey by the credit-card provider has revealed that almost a third of consumers said they were delaying shopping because they were afraid of getting or spreading coronavirus, while almost a fifth said they were put off by crowds.
The government has urged people to get out and spend money to help reboot the economy, relaxing restrictions and launching a raft of tax cuts and spending measures to encourage consumers to return to high streets and town centres.
In a further move, and as reported yesterday by Toy World, Boris Johnson has been considering making the wearing of face coverings in stores mandatory for shoppers after mounting evidence that masks can effectively hinder transmission put pressure on the government to change public advice. This will now come into effect from 24th July. A fine of up to £100 for non-compliance will be enforceable by the police, although the advice says that shop staff will be expected to encourage the policy.
However, Environment Secretary George Eustice has said that shop staff will not be required to wear face coverings themselves when the new measure is introduced for shoppers next week.
Although masks are compulsory on public transport, England has been one of the slowest countries to introduce mask wearing in shops, which is compulsory in many European countries, as well as in Scotland.
“There is growing evidence that wearing a face covering in an enclosed space helps protect individuals and those around them from coronavirus,” said a statement from No 10. “The prime minister has been clear that people should be wearing face coverings in shops and we will make this mandatory from 24 July.”
The shadow health secretary said: “Given the government’s own guidance issued on 11th May advised in favour of face masks, many will ask why yet again have ministers been slow in making a decision in this pandemic, and why it’ll take another 11 days before these new guidelines come into force.” Government sources have responded that the delay was necessary to allow shops time to prepare and to pass the relevant legislation.
Readers have shared with Toy World their opinion on the wearing of masks instore. Richard Derr, of US retailer Learning Express, told us: “I can say unequivocally it has helped here in Illinois. Our team feels safer, customers are protected and frankly a small inconvenience.” Another reader commented: “Nowadays, I don’t go into a store unless they DO insist on masks.” Ross Taylor of Laughing Lobster added, “Interesting results in Scotland. I was just out at Asda in Cumbernauld and counted about 120 people in store. Only saw two people without masks. Similar story in Tesco in Alloa at the weekend. Near 100% compliance.”
Downing Street is also poised to change the guidance about working from home. Boris Johnson said more people should be returning to work, but only where changes have been made to ensure their workplace is safe. “People have gone to huge lengths to make their businesses Covid-secure: so they’re installing washing facilities, they’re installing screens, they’re installing social distancing measures – doing all sorts of things to make the workplace safe. What I want to see is people now who have been working from home for a long time, talking to employers, talking to their place of work about the steps that have been taken, and looking to come back to work in a safe way.”