Covid: UK retail sales fell to three-month low in July after hospitality curbs eased, figures show

A woman walks past the boarded up former Debenhams flag-ship store in Oxford Street, London. Credit: PA

UK retail slipped last month to the weakest performances since shops reopened in April after lockdown restrictions were eased, official figures show.

A decline in food store purchases was a main contributor of retail sales falling by 2.5% between June and July 2021, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The Euro 2020 tournament brought a retail boost in June as scores of Three Lions fans flocked to shops to buy food and drinks for the matches.

But by the time the games had finished in mid July, the further lifting of hospitality restrictions - such as limits on social contact being removed in restaurants and pubs - led to consumers having more spending options outside traditional retail.

Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician for economic statistics at the ONS, said despite the recent slump, retail sales remain well above pre-pandemic levels.

"Food sales fell back as further lifting of hospitality restrictions meant consumers had more opportunities to spend outside retail," he explained.

"Heavy rainfall at the start of July hit fuel sales, which dipped for the first time since February."

A man wearing a face mask walks past an empty shop unit at a shopping centre in Victoria, central London. Credit: PA

The latest ONS figures follow warnings of the decline of the high street, with retail experts urging the government to implement wide ranging changes to the business rates system.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: "July continued to see strong sales, although growth has started to slow. "The lifting of restrictions did not bring the anticipated in-store boost, with the wet weather leaving consumers reluctant to visit shopping destinations."

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