Online sales surge 46 per cent but clothes shops have yet to recover (PA)

UK retail sales rose for the fourth consecutive month in August, but high streets continue to struggle, with revenues at clothing stores remaining well below pre-pandmic levels, three months after stores were allowed to re-open.

Sales volumes across online and traditional retailers were 4 per cent higher than they were in February, driven by DIY and household goods stores, official figures show. Recovery after the lockdown is slowing from 3.6 per cent in July to 0.8 per cent in August.

Online sales are up 47 per cent since before lockdown, meaning even tougher competition for traditional retailers.

Clothing retailers have been particularly hard-hit, with sales down 16 per cent as millions of people stay working at home and forego summer holidays abroad.

DIY and homeware stores experienced the strongest growth with a 9.9 per cent increase in revenues.

“Sales of household goods thrived as the demand for home improvement continued and, despite a dip this month, online sales remained high,” said Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician for economic statistics at the Offcie for National Statistics.

“Overall, the switch to greater online sales means the high street remains under pressure.”

The ONS also reported that 51.5 per cent of food retailers said they saw a decrease in footfall between 10 August to 23 August, which it said could be linked to the reopening of other areas of the economy, such as restaurants and bars.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “It is clear that the retail industry is entering a period of fragile recovery, with August showing the third consecutive month of growth.

“However, the recovery remains a mixed bag, with high growth in online sales while city centre shops suffered as a result of low footfall.”

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said: “After the stellar recovery in retail sales we saw in the past three months, it’s no surprise that the monthly rate of growth slowed in August.

“Being the second month of the high street reopening in full, much of the focus last month was on the hospitality and leisure sectors.

“The popularity of initiatives such as Eat Out To Help Out even lead to a rare slowdown in grocery sales growth.”

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