UK retail sales in April fell to their lowest on record despite a surge in online shopping as people stayed at home and non-essential stores were shut due to the pandemic.
The volume of retail sales in Britain fell 18.1 per cent in April compared with the previous month, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This is the largest drop since records began in 1996 and beats the 5.2 per cent fall in March, the previous record drop.
Compared with the same month last year, sales were down 22.6 per cent, pushing the level to where it was in December 2005.
Online sales rose 18 per cent in April compared with the previous month, sending the proportion spent online to the highest on record, at 30.7 per cent. In April 2019, the proportion was 19 per cent.
Online sales rose for most types of shops: including food retailers which recorded a 56 per cent increase while department stores had a 17 per cent growth.
For physical shops, clothing stores were the only type of shop that reported a fall with a 50.2 monthly tumble, following a 34.9 per cent drop in March. Alcohol stores reported a 2.3 per cent jump in sales. In contrast, sales in food stores fell 4 per cent, mainly due to a decline from the strong growth in March, when panic buying caused a rise in sales.
At the same time, sales at petrol stations fell by a record 52 per cent, with a similar decline reported by household goods stores and a 25 per cent drop for department stores.
Rules around store closures started to ease a little this month, with garden centres and DIY shops reopening. Many non-essential shops will be back in business on June 1.