Retail sales plunge as lockdown shuts thousands of stores

UK retail sales slumped in January as national lockdowns saw huge numbers of shops shutting their doors.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said retail sales volumes fell 8.2% last month – significantly worse than analyst expectations, with a consensus of economists predicting a 2.5% decline.

Sales had increased by 0.3% in December, as Christmas demand and the relaxation of previous pandemic restrictions briefly buoyed retailers.

The January slump was less severe than in the first UK lockdown, but retail sales volumes remain 5.5% below pre-pandemic levels from February last year.

There was a surge in online trading, with e-commerce hitting a record proportion of 35.2% of all sales.

All sectors saw a decline in sales, except for non-store retailers and food retailers, which reported 3.7% and 1.4% jumps respectively.

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