Online sales dip slightly as in-store records best figures since February

Online retail sales continued to surge in August, growing 72.4% on a like-for-like basis, according to the latest BDO High Street Sales Tracker (HSST).

And like-for-like eCommerce revenue grew 85.15% in the final week of August, which the BDO attributes to the introduction of discounts ahead of the bank holiday weekend that “convinced shoppers to part with discretionary spend”.

Overall, these figures represented a slight dip compared with the earlier lockdown period, in which there was three consecutive months of 100%+ increases in online sales during April, May, and June. In July, the HSST showed online sales grew 81.2%, as the reopening of non-essential stores began to take effect. Nevertheless, the accelerated shift to eCommerce looks to have sustained.

In-store like-for-like sales declined by 28.1% in August, which is the seventh consecutive month of negative growth. More encouragingly, this was the best total in-store figures since February, the month before the Covid-19 pandemic struck the UK, which is primarily due to slashed prices in the final week of August.

In-store like-for-like sales in lifestyle fell by 29.4%, the seventh consecutive month of negative growth in this sector. And fashion in-store sales reduced by 32.5%, the sixth straight month of decline.

The only sector to see like-for-like in-store growth in August was homeware, which was up by 0.7% according to the BDO. This correlates with strong performances recorded by a number of homeware retailers over recent months, such as Dunelm, Cox & Cox, and DFS.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO LLP, commented: “While the last week of August provided a moment of positivity, the reality is that this was largely a result of heavy discounting. As we enter the largest recession on record, the outlook remains unsettled with constrained family finances and job market uncertainty continuing to impact negatively on discretionary spend.”