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UK garden centres and DIY stores expected to rake in £1.4bn over Easter | Retail industry

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Britons are expected to spend about £1.4bn at garden centres and DIY stores this Easter as people splash out on improving their surroundings after months of lockdown, and as bank holiday getaways and trips to the pub remain bannedduring the coronavirus restrictions.

The Easter weekend is traditionally a highlight for retailers and hospitality venues but this year non-essential retailers in England will not be able to open before 12 April. The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) said it expected this to lead to an extra boostfor garden centres and DIY retailers, which are allowed to trade.

“This Easter will test the patience of retailers across the country while garden centres and DIY stores are set to benefit from the ongoing trend of Brits spending on home improvements,” the CEBR said. “Compared with Easter 2020, we estimate that spending on DIY and gardening will be up by £290m this weekend, reaching £1.4bn.”

The economics consultancy said wider retail sales for the Easter weekend were expected to come in at about £8.1bn, up from £7bn in 2020, but far below the pre-pandemic £9.2bn recorded in 2019.

On a per household basis, this equates to spending of about £290 this weekend, which is, apart from last year, the lowest figure since 2015. The wintery weather forecast for Easter Monday will be a further drag on footfall, meaning hopes for retailers will focus even more on the planned reopening of all retail stores on 12 April.

At Easter last year, the UK was about four weeks into its first national lockdown and the impact can be clearly seen in the data. Footfall over the Easter weekend dropped by 83% compared with the holiday weekend of the previous year, with shopping centres and high streets especially affected. The CEBR said central London “resembled a ghost town with footfall levels down by over 90% compared with Easter 2019”.

One year on, the consultancy said people have found ways to adjust their behaviour to the situation. “In the retail sales data this has become visible in two trends: the rise in online shopping and a boom in sales in garden centres and DIY,” it said.

Online sales as a share of all retail purchases rose to a record 36.1% in February 2021, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data. This is up from 20% in February 2020.

The CEBR said that with most other non-essential retailers closed andand as most other activities were banned by the lockdown restrictions, “Brits have made the best of the situation and turned to improving their homes and gardens”.

In the final three months of 2020, sales in DIY stores were up by 35% while gardening centre sales were up by 8.5%.

Gazebos, outdoor pizza ovens and fire pits have become popular as people prepare their gardens for outdoor Easter gatherings allowed under England’s “rule-of-six” Covid restrictions.

Argos and John Lewis are among the big names warning customers of stock shortages. A notice on the Argos website said that “due to high demand we are running low on garden furniture”. John Lewis has sold out of the vast majority of the 71 garden sets listed on its website, but says “more stock is expected end of April”.

A spokesperson for the Leisure & Outdoor Furniture Association said: “Sales have gone through the roof. Everyone I have spoken to has either met their budget already or gone way above it.”

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The spending spree on outdoor socialising in England even showed up in official retail sales figures, as unseasonal demand for the patio sets and DIY materials needed to create “outdoor rooms” propped up a high street that is reeling from the third lockdown.

The CEBR said non-essential retailers could look forward to increased spending when they are allowed to open, as ONS figures show that average households have saved much more money than they usually do.

“A significant chunk of this spending will go into travel and hospitality once these sectors open up again, but certainly Brits will also be keen to give their wardrobe an update following a year where loungewear and joggers seemed to be the most popular clothing items,” the CEBR said.

“After a painful year, for many retailers things can only get better from here on.”

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