Retail sales experience “historic drop” in the first two weeks of UK lockdown

The latest British Retail Consortium Sales Monitor (RSM) reveals a 27 per cent year-on-year retail sales decline in the two weeks to Monday 4 April.

Sales in the first three weeks of March before the lockdown was enforced grew by 12 per cent, perhaps fuelled by panic buying and stock piling. However, this growth was followed by a sharp decline in spending after Boris Johnson announced new lockdown rules on 23 March and forced non-essential stores to close.

Elsewhere the RSM shows that overall year-on-year retail sales decreased by 4.3 per cent in March against a decline of 1.8 per cent in March 2019 – the worst decline recorded since the British Retail Consortium’s monitor began in 1995.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive at the British Retail Consortium, comments: “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.”

“The crisis continues; the retail industry is at the epicentre and the tremors will be felt for a long while yet. Many physical non-food retailers have been forced to shut down entirely or to limit themselves to online only to protect customers and staff. Consequently, hundreds of thousands of jobs at are risk within these companies and their supply chains. We welcome the Government’s actions to date, yet millions of livelihoods rely on their continued support.”

Paul Martin, UK Head of Retail at KPMG, adds: “The UK’s closure of non-essential stores only started at the backend of the month, so it’s likely worse data is yet to emerge. An uncertain future lies ahead and the industry’s reset button has clearly been pressed. Smart retailers will already be thinking about what this means for the future, but the resilience of the sector cannot be underestimated.”