Families beginning their Christmas shopping early have handed retailers their biggest monthly sales boost in more than a decade.
Sales soared in September as shoppers headed out to avoid the crowds later in the year, according to trade association, the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
A separate report found retailers were also buoyed by the back-to-school rush and stockpiling towards the end of the month as worries over further coronavirus lockdown measures escalated.
Supermarket sales soared by more than 15 per cent last month as a quarter of Britons admitted to stockpiling food in case of shortages, according to Barclaycard.
But online shopping continued to dominate at the expense of the High Street, with bricks-and-mortar retailers fearing the impact of further lockdown restrictions.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: ‘September sales have given retailers early signs that consumers are starting their Christmas shopping earlier this year, which retailers are encouraging their customers to do in order to manage demand at Christmas and keep people safe.’
Paul Martin, UK head of retail at auditing group KPMG, who publish a sales monitor with the BRC, said: ‘The resilience of British retailers has been nothing shy of remarkable in recent months.
As we enter the all-important ‘golden quarter’ – when many retailers make the majority of their annual revenue – the fight for survival couldn’t be more intense.’
Overall retail sales rose 5.6 per cent in September, compared to the same month last year, with online racing ahead with 36.7 per cent growth, according to the BRC-KPMG sales monitor.
High Street stores have suffered as a result, losing 12.3 per cent of their non food sales in the three months to September compared to the same period last year.
Tighter restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus also ‘held back’ fashion and footwear sales, although children’s clothing benefited from the return to school after the longer break, the BRC said.
The trade group also emphasised that sales between April and September were still 1.1pc lower in 2020 than in 2019, highlighting the fragility of the recovery.
Supermarket sales were 15.4 per cent higher in September than last year, according to a separate Barclaycard report, which said 27 per cent of consumers it surveyed admitted stockpiling last month.
Home improvement and DIY sales continued to boom, growing by 25.7 per cent in September.
Clothing sales ticked up by 4.2 per cent thanks to shoppers investing in their autumn and winter wardrobes.