The rate of inflation in the UK doubled in April 2021 owing to a sharp increase in clothing prices after non-retail stores opened on April 12. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose from 0.7 per cent in March to 1.5 per cent in April, highest since March 2020, as per official data. Clothing and footwear prices rose by 2.4 per cent between March and April 2021.
Throughout 2020, clothing and footwear prices followed a different pattern compared with previous years. Clothing prices fell between December 2020 and January 2021 and, unusually, fell by a further 1.5 per cent into February, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in its recent report.
“The 2.4 per cent rise in clothing and footwear prices between March and April 2021, compounded with the 1.6 per cent rise in March, unwound February’s uncharacteristic fall and takes the index value to be similar to its typical, pre-pandemic April level. This is despite the different seasonal pattern experienced so far this year,” ONS said.
The Retail Sales Index figures by ONS showed a 35.7 per cent year-on-year increase in overall sales (non-seasonally adjusted retail sales excluding fuel) in April 2021.
“The ongoing easing of coronavirus restrictions has meant a second month of sales growth, offering a welcome boost for thousands of retailers in England and Wales. Pent-up demand built up during lockdown continues to be released as the reopening of ‘non-essential’ retail offered the public a welcomed opportunity to visit many of their favourite shops. Improved weather during April meant greater sales of fashion, particularly in outerwear and knitwear, as the public renewed their wardrobe and made plans to meet friends and family outdoors. Online sales also continued to perform strongly, rewarding those retailers who had invested in their online and delivery operations during the pandemic,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, responding to the latest ONS Retail Sales Index figures.
“While the figures are a step in the right direction after many months of retail closure, demand remains fragile. Footfall is still down by 40 per cent on the pre-pandemic period, and there are still 530,000 people who work in retail still on furlough. The end of the full business rates relief in England poses a significant threat to retailers who have spent well over a billion pounds on COVID-secure measures aimed at protecting staff and customers,” she added.
The government must deliver on its promise to reform the broken business rates system in the ongoing review. By doing so, the industry will be able to make essential investment in improving their digital offering and breathing new life into the high streets and town centres, Dickinson said.