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U.K. Retailers Enjoy a Bit of Growth Before Lockdown Strikes

U.K. retail sales rose as shoppers stocked up on food and other home supplies before a second lockdown took effect.

The British Retail Consortium recorded an 5.2% increase in October compared to a year earlier on a like-for-like basis. The data includes online sales, which climbed almost 40%.

Shops are having a rough time as coronavirus restrictions keep Britons at home. Restaurants and non-essential stores have been forced to close again to contain the pandemic until at least Dec. 2, darkening the outlook further.

“During an incredibly challenging year for the industry, many retailers had finally thought that they were finding their footing,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive officer of the BRC. “The new lockdown in England will now throw away this progress as we enter the crucial Christmas trading period.”

Overall consumer spending slipped 0.1% last month from a year earlier, a separate survey by Barclaycard showed. Still, spending on food and other essential items jumped as households started to stockpile amid signs another lockdown was coming.

They also splashed out on takeaways and box sets ahead of the long winter nights. Online shopping and home deliveries continued to be popular, contributing to just over 45% of total retail spending last month, according to Barclaycard.

Local businesses enjoyed a surge in support, with nearly half of consumers staying closer to home. Early Christmas shoppers also boosted sales.

However, the lockdown that started Nov. 5 in England will halt the gains made in sales for many businesses. The BRC estimates that 2 billion pounds ($2.6 billion) worth of sales per week will be lost this month.

“The new national lockdown in England will only impact shopper confidence further so expect savvy shopping tactics to intensify in the run up to Christmas,” said Susan Barratt, chief executive officer of IGD, a think tank focusing on the food and consumer good industry.

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