UK retail sales plummeted to the worst levels on record in March as footfall plunged and non-essential stores were forced to close amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Like-for-like UK retail sales at physical stores fell by a record 34.1 per cent and total like-for-like sales, both in-store and online combined, fell 17.9 per cent.
Lifestyle and fashion store sales both suffered the worst month on record, with declines of 40.4 per cent and 24.6 per cent respectively, as consumer spending switched to essential items.
Fashion sales at bricks and mortar stores were negative in every week of March. In the final week of the month, which had only had two days of trading before the coronavirus lockdown, sales dived 99.28 per cent.
Homeware sales plunged 26.1 per cent, the biggest drop since May 2018, the UK retail sales tracker by accountancy firm BDO found.
Online like-for-like sales increased by 13.7 per cent in March from a base of 18.7 per cent last year as shoppers swapped the high street for e-commerce platforms.
Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: “It’s no surprise that March was the worst month on record for the high street, as the COVID-19 outbreak had an immediate impact on consumer demand for discretionary items.
“Understandably, shoppers are being very cautious with their pounds, as concerns about job security grip the nation.
“For most retailers, in-store sales make up the largest portion of their revenue, so they are having to rely solely on non-store channels and adapt aggressively to survive. It is likely that the pandemic has only sped up the shift away from in-store shopping as consumers become even more accustomed to buying on-line.”