Online sales dip again as in-store reaches highest level since February

Online retail sales continued to fall gradually from peak pandemic levels in September, going up by 65.1% on a like-for-like basis, according to BDO’s latest High Street Sales Tracker.

This was the third consecutive month-on-month reduction, following like-for-like increases of 72.4% in August and 81.2% in July. In June, May, and April, online sales grew by more than 100%. This indicates that increasing numbers of consumers are returning to the high street, although eCommerce is still performing far stronger than pre-Covid.

BDO also revealed the lowest weekly result for online sales since March was recorded at the end of September.

This came as in-store sales for September reached their highest level since February, dropping by 23.4% on a like-for-like basis. This was driven by sales in the first week of the month, in which the second best weekly results were recorded since early March. However, retail revenue fell throughout the rest of the month “as fears of a second COVID-19 spike weighed heavily on high street spending”.

In-store lifestyle and fashion sales continued to plummet in September, by 19.2% and 30.4%, respectively. This represents the eighth consecutive month of falling sales for lifestyle and the seventh in a row for fashion.

In-store homeware sales, which have performed well during the pandemic as shoppers invested in home improvements, remained flat as 0.0% this month.

Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO LLP, commented: ‘While the first week of September provided a moment of positivity, the sustained threat of a Covid-19 second wave means retailers are remaining cautious over the near-term outlook, opting to place low levels of orders with their suppliers again this month. Activity in retail sales was picking up in the third quarter but there is concern that this will quickly fade amid rising nervousness as government support schemes which have helped to prop up jobs and businesses’ cash resources begin to diminish.”