Retail’s 2.2% sales rise is ‘dead cat bounce’, says ParcelHero


Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show a slight rise of 2.2% in the value of retail sales against last month (February). This is just a bounce, though, as sales figures hit rock bottom, says the home delivery expert ParcelHero.

It says that the true measure of the health of the High Street involves comparing February’s sales against last year’s, rather than against January’s truly terrible results. The value of sales was down -4.4% against February 2020. ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks M.I.L.T. says that figure more accurately reflects the problems facing High Street retailers during Lockdown 3.

“There’s a name for these results among financiers: ‘dead cat bounce’. It means a temporary, short-lived recovery before a fall continues. Today’s ONS retail results look dire when you look past the initial bounce. Actually, the value of sales has collapsed -6% over the last three months (December 2020- February 2021) when compared to the previous three months (September-November 2020).

“Only High Street household goods stores showed any sign of resilience, as people decided they were tired of staring at the same magnolia walls and started DIY projects around their homes. The quantity of household goods sales increased by 16.1% in February compared with the previous month and 5.1% compared with February 2020.

“That is the only glimmer of light for the High Street, however. The final proof that the 2.2% climb against January’s results is little more than a bounce involves comparing this small growth with the monthly rise in the value of online sales. Online soared 4.6% against January and a jaw-dropping 77.6% YOY. E-commerce captured 36.1% of all retail spending for February.

“Of course, the High Street has proved over time to have more lives than a cat. These figures don’t necessarily mean it is doomed. Over the next few months, the year-on-year comparisons will become stronger, as we start to compare current results with those during the period of the first lockdown in 2020.

“However, to see any signs of a genuine High Street resurgence, we need to wait to see the results of ONS figures for April and May. These will give a more accurate picture of whether online will continue to dominate or if consumers will venture out to town centre stores once more.

“Only stores that embrace their website as their most important shop window and ensure their online service matches the standard of their in-store experience will survive.”

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