Retail sales reported the sharpest fall on record last month as sales volumes dived 5.1% as many stores shut their doors in the face of coronavirus, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The figures could have been much worse but for the big rise in food, household goods and alcohol sales and suggest that with panic buying ending, the figures for April could be far much worse.

Clothing stores tumbled nearly 35% during the month but alcohol sales grew by 32.6% in March.

Meanwhile online sales as a proportion of all retailing reached a record high of 22.3% in March 2020 as consumers switched to online purchasing following the pandemic.

“Comments from food store retailers suggested that panic buying, or stockpiling during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, was a big factor in the increased sales, particularly for supermarkets (Table 3). Store closures were a reason provided by smaller food stores for reduced sales, although a small number did diversify with delivery-only orders.” says the ONC


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