Retail sales plummeted by a FIFTH in April amid coronavirus lockdown

Retail sales plummeted by a FIFTH in April as Britons stopped buying fuel and clothing amid coronavirus lockdown – but purchases of alcohol were UP

  • ONS figures showed retail sales were down by a fifth in April amid the lockdown 
  • Fuel and clothing sales were down by half month-on-month but alcohol was up
  • Figures underline the scale of the hit to the economy from coronavirus chaos 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Retail sales plummeted by nearly a fifth last month as Britons stopped buying fuel and clothing amid lockdown – but alcohol sales were up.  

The record plunge of 18.1 per cent month-on-month underlines the massive hit to the economy from coronavirus chaos. 

Full lockdown was imposed by the government on March 23, with non-essential shops ordered to shut. 

In the first full month after the draconian curbs were introduced, clothing sales volumes were hit by a 50.2 per cent drop – having already seen a fall of 34.9 per cent in March.  Meanwhile, fuel saw a 52 per cent reduction, and food sales were down as the stockpiling frenzy eased, according to official figures.  

One of the few areas to see an increase was off-licence sales, which were up 2.3 per cent on the month – perhaps reflecting the inability of Britons to go to pubs and bars. 

Retail sales volumes dropped by nearly a fifth overall in April, with fuel down 52 per cent, according to official figures

The April drop followed the previous fall of 5.2 per cent in March compared to February. 

The volume of goods sold by household stores fell 45.4 per cent, on the back of an 8.7 per cemt drop from February to March.

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

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

The only sectors to see an increase in volume of sales last month were non-store retailing such as online and catalogue businesses, up 18 per cent on the previous month, and off licences.

Jonathan Athow, ONS deputy national statistician for economic statistics, said: ‘The effects of Covid-19 have contributed to a record monthly fall in retail sales of nearly a fifth.

‘Fuel and clothing sales fell significantly while spending on food also dropped after the surge from the panic buying seen last month. Off-licence sales, however, continued to increase.

‘Online shopping has again surged as people purchased goods from their homes.’

Ian Geddes, head of retail at Deloitte, said: ‘The UK’s first full month of lockdown measures exposed a sharp divide in retail, not only between those in food and non-food, but also between online and in-store sales as physical shops closed.

‘Food sales volumes have fallen this month, down 4.1 per cent, as initial consumer stockpiling eased and supply chains caught up with the increased demand. 

‘However, in a significant jump, online food sales now account for 9.3 per cent of all food sales, testament to the ability of supermarkets to pivot supply chains and boost their online platforms to manage more home deliveries.’