March sees record fall in retail sales as coronavirus continues

ONS Retail report
The Office for national statistics (ONS) has today released a report revealing declining sales figures for British high street stores in March.

Retail stores took a particularly hard blow this March, with clothing sales dropping by a third. Total sales volumes in March dived 5.1% compared to February, as outlets have been forced to shut their doors due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

This week has been especially difficult for retail businesses, on Tuesday fashion giant Primark reported they made 0% in sales last month, a first for the brand which usually rakes in £650m.

“Retail sales saw their biggest monthly fall since records began over 30 years ago with large declines in clothing and fuel, only partially offset by strong food sales,” says ONS head of sales, Rhian Murphy.

However, retailers with an online presence did see growth, she continues;

“Online-only retailers saw strong growth though, with many high street stores also unsurprisingly seeing a boost to web sales.”

In fact, online retail sales have skyrocketed (22.3% of sales were made online as delivery operations continue to run through COVID-19), and they appear to be the only financial crutch many high street brands have had during these unprecedented times.

With social distancing and lockdown measures continue to be implemented by the Government, many retail business owners are fearful that April has been another disappointing sales month.

“Retail shops were already suffering before the coronavirus as a result of changing consumer behaviour. Increasing numbers of people are turning away from the high street and shopping online, which offers greater convenience and ease. The COVID-19 pandemic has only escalated the decline of the high street and is likely to speed up these inevitable shifts, with high street footfall seeing its steepest decreases ever,” comments Dr. Kerstin Braun, president of Stenn Group, a global trade finance provider

“Due to restrictions and reduced incomes people will be buying less, and further administration filings are inevitable. SMEs, which make up 35% of retail sales, will be hit the hardest and we know that recovery will not be easy. Lenders have been traditionally reluctant to provide loans to shops however rent support programmes, similar to those for furloughed staff, could help to stem the damage and control the effects.”

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