ONS retail figures a big relief for retailers, despite ‘pingdemic’ impact


That sales were still up by 5.2% in the three months to July is a big relief for the retail sector aiming to win back trade during the summer season. Hopes rested on Freedom Day, but the real support has been from the high number of staycations, excitement of the Euros and Olympics, and the hotter weather – all of which have undoubtedly played a huge role in getting people out and spending.

It’s not to say there have not been bumps in the road, with retail sales volumes falling by 2.5% compared to June – the biggest monthly fall since January. This dip highlights the real impact of the ‘pingdemic’, with some stores forced to cease trading due to staff shortages and consumers subsequently flocking back to online shopping when isolating.  

While it’s true consumers have become accustomed to shopping online, the experiences of seeing and touching some products just can’t be replaced. As consumers enjoy the last of summer, more people return to offices and the back-to-school season looms, we can expect brick-and-mortar browsing to regain momentum. 

Retailers need to look beyond seasonal trends though. To keep brick-and-mortar profitable in the long term requires them to re-think the overall purpose of their existing sites, act in real-time and accommodate the digital-first mindset that characterises many consumers. Delivering a consistent and connected experience is important for retailers but it’s complicated to achieve. Making things easier for the customer means connecting channels, but also boosting others, for example, stores could become operational hubs and pick-up locations to speed up online orders and collections.