UK Retail Sales Log Record Monthly Fall Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

UK retail sales declined at the fastest pace since the series began as many stores ceased trading from late March following the official government guidance for lockdown during the coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic.

Retail sales volume, including automotive fuel, declined 5.1 percent month-on-month in March, following a 0.3 percent drop in February, data from the Office for National Statistics showed Friday.

This was the biggest monthly fall on record. Economists had forecast a 4.9 percent decrease.

Food stores and non-store retailing were the only sectors to show growth in the monthly volume series in March, with food stores seeing the strongest growth on record, at 10.4 percent.

Clothing stores logged a sharp fall of 34.8 percent, while alcohol sales jumped 31.4 percent.

Excluding auto fuel, retail sales fell 3.7 percent on month after easing 0.5 percent in February. However, this was slower than the expected 4 percent decrease.

On a yearly basis, retail sales were down 5.8 percent following nil growth in the previous month. Economists had forecast an annual 5 percent fall.

Excluding auto fuel, retail sales volume decreased 4.1 percent, in contrast to February’s 0.4 percent rise. This was slower than the expected fall of 4.7 percent.

In the three months to March, the retail sales volume fell by 1.6 percent compared with the previous three months.

Data showed that online sales as a proportion of all retailing reached a record high of 22.3 percent in March as consumers switched to online purchasing following the pandemic.

According to the British Retail Consortium, retail sales decreased 4.3 percent on a yearly basis in March, the sharpest fall since records began in 1995.

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