UK retail sales in 2020 post record fall; government borrowing rises – business live

Clothing and petrol sales in record declines while online sales hit all-time high, UK government borrowing rises to the highest-ever December on record

Here’s some instant reaction to the official figures.

Ian Geddes, head of retail at Deloitte, says:

Despite the challenges that 2020 brought, retail overall has shown some resilience in the final month of the year. Strong performance in grocery and record-breaking online sales for non-food meant that Christmas 2020 was the most digital ever.

Having entered 2021 under renewed lockdown restrictions, retailers will be looking to consumer behaviours during the pandemic to predict which new trends are likely to emerge, and which will carry over. For some consumers, the move to remote work has strengthened their ability to both save and pay down debts. For others, lockdown periods provided an opportunity to experiment; be that with online shopping, exploring new products at home, or even trying out new looks. Combined with greater consumer interest in buying locally, the question for retailers is where to focus efforts in the year ahead.

UK retail sales were weaker than expected between Covid lockdowns via @_DavidGoodman

2020 clearly was the year of internet sales. The ONS says the value of online retail sales shot up by 46.1% in 2020 from the year before, the highest annual growth since 2008.

Food stores (up 79.3%), “other stores” (up 73.9%), household goods stores (up 73.4%) and department stores (up 65.9%) all recorded record annual increases in values of internet sales last year.

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