January marked the eleventh consecutive monthly of like-for-like retail sales as shoppers have returned to London’s shopping hotspots.
However, retail chiefs warned that the cost of living squeeze may soon curtail Brits’ spending habits.
Total like-for-like sales, combined in-store and online, increased by +51.9 per cent in January, according to data from accountancy firm BDO.
This was from a base of -10.0 per cent for January 2021 when the country was in a national Covid lockdown.
Fashion sales saw the biggest growth with sales soaring 74.2 per cent last month, from a base of minus 12.1 per cent last year.
As Brits returned to offices, total non-store like-for-like sales fell 2.7 per cent. This was just the second time that online sales have fallen since 2010, when BDO records began. However, it is from a high base of 132.8 per cent growth in January 2021.
Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: “With the cost of living set to continue to rise, many retailers may have expected a rocky start to 2022, particularly as they largely avoided significant discounts and promotions in January.
“Consumers, though, have defied expectations by continuing to spend heavily in discretionary categories. However, many will be asking how much longer this level of consumer spend can be sustained.”
With figures showing consumers have been increasingly using ‘buy now pay later’ platforms over recent months. Michael warned that these levels were not “sustainable” in the face of other rising costs.
She added: “We may continue to see strong like-for-like sales in the early months of 2022 but as the figures are bench-marked against months in 2021 when the country was in full lockdown, such strong results may not reflect the actual experience on the high street.”
Growth was unlikely to continue throughout 2022 given the expected stretch on household finances, Michael added.
The West End has enjoyed busiest week since November 2021 following the easing of Covid restrictions last month.
In the first full week since plan B measures eased, areas including Covent Garden and Oxford St, saw a return of shoppers.
Footfall hit 79 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, the highest seen since last autumn, before the Omicron coronavirus variant emerged.
Total daily footfall was up on average 10 per cent in the week Thursday 27 January to Wednesday 2 February, compared to the week prior, according to the New West End Company.
Morning commuter footfall was up on average nine per cent week-on-week, the business group said.
Weekend footfall was on average 79 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, and up by 11 per cent from the previous weekend.