Cheer for virus-hit retailers after biggest quarterly leap on record for sales

Official figures show the biggest quarterly leap on record for retail sales, as the sector battles back from the coronavirus lockdown amid renewed restrictions.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported a 17.4% jump in volumes in the third quarter of the year covering July to September.

The wider figures were much stronger than analysts had expected given continued consumer caution in the tough economy that has led to a surge in unemployment and pressure on wage growth for those in work.

The data showed sales excluding fuel purchases rose by 1.6% in September from August, leaving them 6.4% higher when compared to the same month in 2019.

While the news will be welcome for a sector that has been among those to feel the worst of the pain in the crisis to date, industry figures suggest that discounting in many sectors to lure shoppers to spend will hit bottom lines.