UK retail sales returned to more normal levels in May following a big jump in April after non-essential retailers were allowed to reopen, according to a survey released on Tuesday by the Confederation of British Industry.
The CBI’s balance for sales came in at -3 in May from +16 in April, indicating that sales were “broadly average” for the time of year.
CBI economist Ben Jones said the fact sales were in line with seasonal norms is a definite improvement from earlier in the year, but that this month’s survey is perhaps “a touch disappointing” after April’s stronger results.
“Some retailers have suggested the increase in demand after the initial reopening of non-essential retail in early April was either short-lived or less strong than expected. And non-store sales remain well above seasonal norms, suggesting that some consumers who migrated to online shopping during the pandemic have not fully shifted back to old habits,” he said.
“As the economy moves toward a new normal, it’s clear that the pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing challenges for some retailers. The trend away from bricks-and-mortar retail has accelerated, while rent arrears and accrued debts have added to the cumulative burden of costs. The lockdown may be over, but its impact on the sector will be felt for a good while yet.”