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Latest ONS figures show how UK shoppers changed the way they buy during lockdown

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Increased online spending and falling in-store sales in June suggest that the way shoppers buy has changed dramatically during the coronavirus lockdowns – although official figures suggest the amount they spend has now returned to pre-Covid levels. 

Last month, 31.8% of retail sales took pace online, according to the ONS Retail Sales report for June. That’s down from 33.3% in May, but still sharply up from the 20% of sales that took place over the internet in February – before the coronavirus hit the UK. 

Shoppers spent 1.5% more across all retail sales channels during the month to buy 1.7% more goods, excluding petrol and diesel, than they did at the same time last year. They spent 13.1% more than in the previous month of May, to buy 13.5% more goods, again, excluding automotive fuel. 

How spending has changed over the course of Covid-19 lockdowns

Online spending came in at an estimated £2.5bn a week in June, 61.9% – or £943.5m – higher than it was in February when shoppers spent an estimated £1.5bn, according to figures from the ONS. 

The biggest changes in how shoppers buy have been in non-food sales, where overall sales are still 15% lower than in February. Overall non-food sales are down by 15.9% in June compared to February. fallen by 15.9% comparing February and June, with store sales down by 32.8% and online sales up by 73.3%. That’s partly as a result of non-essential stores still being closed during the first half of June, although most essential stores were open throughout the month. 

Household goods stores were the only category to have seen sales grow, by 1.9%, between February and June, thanks to fast online growth (+103.2%) and a less sharp decline in store sales (-15.2%) since the category was classed as essential retailing.

Department stores saw the fastest online growth, coming in at 111.3% in June, compared to February. Store sales were down by 28.3%, and overall sales in the category were 5.2% lower in June.

Clothing, footwear and textile sales were a third lower (-34.9%) in June than in February, with online sales up by 26.8% but store sales down by 50.8%. By the end of June more than 70% of clothing retailers told the ONS’ Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey that they were trading and had been for more than the last two weeks. 

Other non-food stores, a category that includes electrical retailers, saw their overall sales fall by 16.2%, with online sales up by 90.8% but store sales down by 31%.

Food sales, meanwhile, were 5.3% higher in June than in February, with sales down from a peak seen during lockdown.

This month’s ONS figures did not include an overview of how online sales changed compared to last month and last year.

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