Back-to-school season expected to boost total retail sales +12% compared to pre-pandemic

As parents start to look to the new school year, UK retailers are already preparing for a strong back-to-school shopping season.

According to Mastercard SpendingPulse™, which measures in-store and online retail sales across all forms of payment, UK retail sales excluding petrol are expected to grow 12% during the 16 August to 19 September back-to-school period compared to the same time pre-pandemic in 2019. Year-on-year, sales are expected to grow 6.7% compared to 2020.

This anticipated growth builds on positive retail momentum, as total retail sales rose 4.2% year-on-year in July, fuelled by pent-up demand and lifting of restrictions.

Anticipated back-to-school retail sales (16th Aug 2021 – 19th Sep 2021)

Total Retail Sales (excluding petrol) Clothing Electronics Furniture
Year-on-Year Growth vs. 2020
Aug 16- Sep 20, 2021 vs
Aug 17- Sep 20, 2020
6.7% 18.7% 8.9% 11.0%
Year-on-Two-Year Growth vs. 2019
Aug 16- Sep 20, 2021 vs
Aug 19- Sep 22, 2019
12.0% 0.5% 13.4% 15.8%
Source: Mastercard SpendingPulse, which measures overall retail sales across all payment types, including cash and cheque

Fashion will be a big winner in the back-to-school shopping sprees. Clothing sales are expected to increase by 18.7% compared to the same time last year, as people flock to the shops to buy new school uniforms and office clothing. The trend for improving our homes has not abated with the lifting of restrictions, with furniture sales forecast to increase 11% year on year as we continue to update our living and home office spaces. This is closely followed by technology as electronics sales are forecast to increase by 8.9% year-on-year.

“Back to school has always been a key shopping time for retailers. This year, the broader reopening of the High Street brings an exciting wave of optimism as children prepare for what is hopefully an uninterrupted school year,” said Kelly Devine, Divisional President, Mastercard UK & Ireland. “This back-to-school season will be defined by choice as online sales remain robust and brick and mortar browsing regains momentum as shoppers seek to make up for lost time.”