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Retailers suffer record fall in sales

Retail sales plunged by a record 18.1% in April as hundreds of thousands of shops were forced to shut to help tackle coronavirus.

The Office or National Statistics (ONS) reported the month-on-month fall on the back of a 5.2% fall from February to March.

Clothing sales were the hardest hit, falling by 50.2% compared to March, a month which had itself seen drops of 34.9% from February’s figures.

Sales from household goods stores fell 45.4%, on the back of an 8.7% drop from February to March. Supermarkets also saw a fall of 2.8%, having seen sales increase 10.4% in March.

The results come in the same week Chancellor Rishi Sunak warned the UK is “likely to face a severe recession, the likes of which we haven’t seen”.

The only sectors making hay in the current in the current climate were non-store retailing, such as online only and catalogue businesses, and off licences.

Non-store retailing saw rises of 18%, while off licences saw sales increase by 2.3%.

The proportion spent online rose to 30.7% in April, the highest on record, up from 19.1% over the same month last year.

Almost all store types reached record proportions of online spending in April, the ONS said, as many retailers shifted to online trading only.

Euan Murray, relationship director, Barclays Corporate Banking, Scotland, said: “Spring is usually a welcome time for UK retailers, with Easter festivities, early summer holiday spend and household improvements all providing a boost to trading – but the lockdown caused by Covid-19 has drastically reduced retail sales across the UK.

“Whilst footfall is predictably down there are still some glimmers of hope, with online purchases and supermarket spend both providing a silver lining to the clouds that have gathered in recent weeks. The money that consumers might usually have spent within the experience economy could also open up new revenue streams for online-based, non-essential retailers.

“What is clear is that the lockdown has accelerated a number of structural changes in retail, with a shift to online spending the most obvious of these. In the medium to long term, retailers need to work out how to get shoppers back to physical premises in a post-Covid high street.”

Published in Insider -