The BRC Economic Briefing Report for May 2021

The British Retail Consortium has released its Economic Briefing Report for May 2021. 

The mood in the UK economy is optimistic. Household spend on Non-Food and in-stores saw a big surge in April, and spending in other categories, such as delayables and work-related, rose in April and May too.

Business optimism reached a record level in April, as growth of output and new orders were among the best seen in the past seven years. This brings hopes that employment will rise, even if the business sector remains beset by large increases in input costs due to input shortages and supply chains delays.

The recent rise in infection rates brings some headwinds, as uncertainty lingers.

Headline Statistics: 

  • Q1 GDP fell by 1.5%, in line with expectations, meaning that the UK output is now 8.7% below its Q4 2019 level. Household consumption decreased by 3.9%, and business investment shrank by 11.9% in Q1.
  • BRC-KPMG sales rose over the three months to April: total sales rose by 21.4% year-on-year, Food sales by 5.7% and Non-Food by 34.6%. ONS total credit and debit card purchases also show signs of a household spending’s revival, with card spend reaching 99.5% of its February 2020 average in May.
  • The volume of online job adverts on 21 May 2021 was at 118% of its February 2020 average level, with increases recorded in 26 of the 28 categories. For Wholesale and Retail, the volume of online job ads in May was similar to that of February 2020, but 7.5% below the average of May 2019.
  • The purchasing managers’ index rose to 62.0 in May, up from 60.7 in April, marking its highest reading since records began in January 1998.
  • In April, UK yearly prices rose by 1.5%, up from 0.7% in March, the highest rate since the pandemic began, on the back of higher petrol, gas, electricity and clothing prices.

As a member of the BRC, the MIA can share the full report with our members. If you would like to see the full report, please contact

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