// UK’s high street retailers suffered worst month on record in March amid coronavirus lockdown
// Total like-for-like sales dived 17.9% for the month while in-store sales plunged 34.1%
// Fashion stores were worst-hit, with sales nosediving 40.4% over the month
Britain’s high street retailers suffered their worst month on record in March as they were hammered by the Covid-19 lockdown, according to new figures.
The latest monthly BDO High Street Sales Tracker saw total like-for-like sales dive 17.9 per cent for the month as shoppers stayed indoors.
In-store sales were particularly badly hit, plunging 34.1 per cent after non-essential stores were ordered by the Prime Minister to shut their doors in the face of the pandemic.
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Reduced footfall due to social distancing protocols also hit stores during the month, while shoppers’ attentions were diverted to essential items such as groceries.
Fashion stores saw sales nosedive by 40.4 per cent over the month, while lifestyle shops reported a 24.6 per cent decline.
Elsewhere, homeware store sales declined by 26.1 per cent after customers vanished at the end of the month.
Shoppers turned their attentions online, with non-store like-for-like sales increasing by 13.7 per cent.
However, this online growth was not consistent for all retailers, with fashion shops also reporting lower online demand.
“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,” BDO head of retail Sophie Michael said.
“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 online.”
A government spokesman said: “We know this is an extremely tough time for Britain’s retailers which is why we have announced a package of measures to support them.
“This includes grants of up to £25,000, a 12-month business rates holiday and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to help firms, including retailers, continue to keep people in employment.”
with PA Wires