The state of the UK retail sector after lockdown

After an incredibly challenging and unpredictable year – much of which has been spent navigating various restrictions and lockdowns – businesses are now starting to recover and re-emerge. 

As part of the UK government’s roadmap out of lockdown, the retail sector sprung back into action on 12th April, with ‘non-essential’ shops able to open their doors to the public for the first time since the start of the year. Businesses (and their customers!) breathed a sigh of relief – but are we now out of the woods?

Well, the future is still uncertain – but the latest UK data is painting a much more optimistic picture for the retail space than the sceptics were expecting.  

Here are a handful of positive takeaways from recent UK retail statistics from the first quarter of 2021 that show it’s not all doom and gloom, and there’s hope for retail yet! 

Retail recovery started sooner than many analysts were expecting

Overall, Q1 2021 saw plummeting sales across the board. But, as Bloomberg mentions in this article from late March 2021, retail sales did start to rebound – albeit modestly – in February, despite nationwide closures. In particular, sales of household goods and spending at department stores increased by 16% during this month amongst hope that restrictions might begin to ease in mid-spring. 

Sales volumes jumped even further in March 

According to Reuters, sales volumes leapt by 5.4% in March compared to February, as shoppers were preparing for the reintroduction of small outdoor gatherings, and the most vulnerable were entertaining the idea of venturing back out into the world thanks to the so-far success of the vaccine rollout. Economists had expected to see a month-on-month increase of just 1.5%, so this news was very encouraging indeed. 

Consumer confidence is at its highest since before the pandemic

The UK consumer confidence index rose one point to -15 in April, meaning that those polled were feeling more positively about their personal finances and general economic prospects than in the previous month. This reading was the highest since February 2020.

As this article from the Financial Times explains, the clothing and hospitality sectors recorded especially strong growth during this time, too. 

So, while retailers have some way to go to return to their pre-pandemic state, all the latest data is telling us that things are, slowly but surely, on their way back to some sort of normal. Like all of you, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the state of play in the coming months, and keeping our fingers crossed for a fast and successful recovery into the summer and beyond! 

If you work in the fashion sector, you might be interested in learning more about how fashion retailers can prepare for life (and business) post-COVID here

And if you’re keen to start investing in bespoke labels and custom designed merchandise again, remember Hallmark can design and supply a fantastic range of products, from self-adhesive labels, woven labels and washcare labels through to custom printed mailing bags, boxes and other types of product packaging.

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