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Retail sales drop sharply in March

New figures from the British Retail Consortium and KPMG show that UK retail sales fell by 4.3% on a total basis in March. This was the… View Article

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Retail sales drop sharply in March

New figures from the British Retail Consortium and KPMG show that UK retail sales fell by 4.3% on a total basis in March. This was the worst decline since the BRC monthly sales monitor began in 1995.

On a like-for-like basis sales were down 3.5%.

Unsurprisingly, there was a marked contrast between sales before and after the coronavirus lockdown on 23 March. In the first three weeks of the month, total retail sales climbed by 12% but sales dropped by 27% in the last two weeks of the period.

Helen Dickinson BRC chief executive, said: “In March, the necessary measures to fight the spread of coronavirus led to the worst decline in retail sales on record. Furthermore, the headline figure masked even more dramatic swings: food and essentials faced an unprecedented surge in demand in the early part of March, only to drop significantly into negative growth after the lockdown and introduction of social distancing in stores.”

Over the three months to March, non-food retail sales decreased by 6.7% on a like-for-like basis and by 6.6% on a total basis. Meanwhile, in-store sales of non-food items fell by 13% on both a total and like-for-like basis due to the closure of non-essential stores.

In contrast, food sales increased by 4.9% on a like-for-like basis and by 5.1% on a total basis.

Looking at the performance of online sales, non-food sales rose by 18.8% compared to an uplift of 2.5% in March 2019.

Dickinson added: “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. Sales of computers and accessories, board games, and fitness equipment all rose sharply as a result of the move to home-schooling and work-from-home. In contrast, demand for the latest fashion ranges significantly declined.”

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