Retail sales slide but online bucks the trend amid coronavirus crisis


The coronavirus impact has seen a retail sales slide since the implementation of lockdown rules.

However, online sales have almost bucked the trend with more people shopping and spending from home.

Responding to the latest retail sales figures for March, Ryan Broomfield, partner and retail specialist at RSM, said: “The latest retail sales figures for March reflect the start of a significant downturn in UK consumer spend. The effects of coronavirus and lockdown saw the quantity of sales fall sharply by 5.1 per cent and the value of sales dropped by 5.7 per cent compared to the previous year.”

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He continued: “With empty toilet roll shelves making headlines as early as the first week in March, it’s no surprise that food stores saw record growth and were up by 10.4% per cent as the nation stockpiled in anticipation of lockdown.”

“It would be wrong to think that the supermarkets are cashing in on coronavirus though. No one is safe in the current crisis. The supermarkets are under pressure too with increased staff, distribution and store expenses. Sales have also largely focused on lower margin goods.

“Alcohol sales saw momentous growth in both volume and value at 31.4 per cent and 32.6 per cent, respectively. With all pubs and restaurants shut, it seems consumers are enjoying a tipple at home. This could be some welcome news for brewers and distilleries with both wholesale operations and physical sites and might just help them weather the storm.”

Adding: “Online sales reached a record high of 22.3% of sales in the sector in March 2020 with people staying at home even before lockdown. We should expect a further lift in April sales as consumers settle into the “new-normal”, but with some online-only retailers ceasing operations during lockdown, it’s clear that very few businesses will emerge unscathed.  Any business with loose ends weighing on performance will get found out. The soundness of underlying business structures will be critical to survival.”

RSM is an audit, tax and consulting firm to the middle market with nearly 3,800 partners and staff operating from 35 locations throughout the UK.

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Alex Douglas

The author Alex Douglas

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