NEWS16 April 2020

UK retail sales see ‘historic drop’

Covid-19 News Retail UK

UK – Retail sales decreased by 4.3% in March as a result of Covid-19 measures, according to the Retail Sales Monitor produced by the British Retail Consortium and KPMG.

Local high street_crop

The decline is the worst recorded since the monitor began in January 1995, and compares to a decrease of 1.8% in March 2019.

Between the start of the year and the end of March, in-store sales of non-food items dropped 13.0% on a total and like-for-like basis, as a result of non-essential store closures.

Meanwhile, food sales increased 4.9% like-for-like and 5.1% on a total basis in the three months to March.

With consumers staying at home, online retail saw an uptick –non-food online sales increased by 18.8%, compared to 2.5% growth in March last year. The non-food online penetration rate also increased from 29.3% 12 months ago to 43.5% in March 2020.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive, British Retail Consortium, said: “In March, the necessary measures to fight the spread of coronavirus led to the worst decline in retail sales on record. The closure of non-essential shops led to deserted high streets and high double-digit declines in sales which even a rise in online shopping could not compensate for.”

Dickinson said sales of computers, board games and fitness equipment increased sharply in March, while fashion sales significantly declined.

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, added: “Retail sales experienced an historic drop in March, with Covid-19 changing the consumer landscape significantly. Lock down has prompted a fundamental rethink of what is deemed essential. Total sales may ‘only’ be down 4.3%, but the sharp divide between food and non-food, and between physical and online, is far more drastic.”