Preparations for a summer of British back gardens helps retail sales to ‘modest comeback’, in ONS’ latest data

With anticipation already high for a solid season of outdoor toy sales this year, the latest ONS figures suggest that the back garden could be the key destination for British holiday-makers for 2021.

It’s according to the latest results, that spending on home improvements and garden furniture in February – all in preparation for the lifting of restrictions on outdoor socialising next week – has helped the retail sector to ‘a modest comeback’ during the UK’s third lockdown.

Retail sales volumes appear to have recovered slightly in February, suggests the latest data from the Office of National Statistics, as sales volumes rose 2.1 per cent on a month-on-month basis. It had fallen 8.2 per cent in January.

The retail industry has continued to struggle, however, with all non-essential high street shops still closed until April 12th. Without a bounce in online sales and department stores this past month, the ONS suggests that sales in the retail sector would have continued to fall.

Jonathan Athow, the deputy national statistician for economic statistics at the ONS, said: “Despite national restrictions, retail sales partially recovered from the hit they took in January.

“Food and department stores benefited from essential retail remaining open, with budget-end department stores seeing increased sales.

“Household goods also fared well, with feedback suggesting spending on home improvement and outdoor products boosted sales as consumers prepared for an easing of lockdown restrictions.

“However, clothing stores continue to struggle with sales down more than half on their pre-pandemic level.”

Across the toy industry, specialists in outdoor toys and play are expecting to see big sales this spring/summer, driven by UK families opting for a holiday in their own back gardens this year, as the country continues to ease out of the ongoing lockdown restrictions.

Among them, Little Tikes has highlighted expectations for the sell-out success of its Growing Garden range of children’s gardening tools, tapping directly into the growth of the grow-your-own scene over the course of the pandemic, while Plum Play has made little secret of the success it has seen for its larger item outdoor play apparatus, including trampolines that witnessed a surge in sales last summer.

“Last year’s lockdown, although not ideal, did create a spike in the Outdoor category and Little Tikes retained its number one position as the UK leading outdoor and Sports brand,” Little Tikes head of marketing UK, Michelle Lilley, told ToyNews earlier this month.

“We believe this year will be similar, with more families making the most of their homes and gardens while foreign and local holidays aren’t as accessible for everyone they will invest further in making their gardens havens to enjoy.

“We’ve already seen significant above season demand for our core classic outdoor lines this year, so we’re hopeful it will be a sell out launch season for Growing Garden too.”

Check out the full interview with Little Tikes’ Michelle Lilley to learn more about the company’s Growing Garden range here.

About Robert Hutchins

Robert Hutchins is the editor of ToyNews and its sister title, Licensing.biz. He has worked his way from Staff Writer to Editor across the two titles, having spent almost eight years with both and what now seems like a lifetime surrounded by toys. You can contact him by emailing robert.hutchins@biz-media.co.uk or calling him on 0203 143 8780 You can even follow him on Twitter @RobGHutchins if ranting is your thing...

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