The High Street fights back: strong April store sales hit e-commerce hard


In the latest round of the fight between the High Street and online sales, in-store sales dealt e-commerce a body blow. April’s retail results from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal sales values rose 43.4% year-on-year against April 2020, the first full month of Lockdown 1, and 9.9%% month-on-month over March 2021, but online sales were left reeling, falling back by -5.6% compared to March.

These figures show that it is physical store sales that are now leading retail’s recovery. However, that doesn’t mean online sales are out for the count. ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks M.I.L.T., says: ‘At last, High Street retailers have some news to celebrate. In-store shopping certainly won on points in April, following the reopening of non-essential stores on “The Glorious Twelfth”. Household goods sales grew 10.2% in April compared to March, with clothing sales bouncing back from the ropes with a 69.4% growth against the previous month thanks to the re-opening of High Street fashion stores.

‘All this is hugely encouraging and shows consumers still want to visit physical stores if they can feel safe. There’s no doubt that the success of Britain’s vaccination campaign has done a lot to increase public confidence. However, any retailer relying solely on increased High Street footfall must realise it’s impossible to ever land a knock-out blow to online shopping. Successful stores must embrace e-commerce as a key part of an integrated sales strategy. Online sales are still an enormous 31.9% higher than they were a year ago in April 2020, when Brits first began the great switch to online.

‘ParcelHero’s own independent research shows 46% of consumers have no intention of spending as much in stores as they used to do pre-pandemic. That’s backed up by April’s ONS figures, which reveal e-commerce still snatched 30% of all retail sales in the UK. That’s a drop from the record peak of 36.1% at the height of lockdown this February, but vastly higher than the 20% of all sales that online took in February 2020 before coronavirus hit.

‘Ultimately, the fight between online and in-store sales must end in a draw. An omnichannel sales strategy, embracing both shop and online sales, with both services complementing the other, is the only way forward as retail claws its way back from the clutches of the coronavirus. To find out how in-store and online must grow together to ensure success, see ParcelHero’s new study on the High Street of the future at: