UK retail sales hit record low on lockdown; alcohol sales continue rally

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A shop assistant wearing a face mask in Brixton on March 26, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Retail sales in Britain slumped by a record 18.1 percent in April with the country in lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed Friday.

Food sales have seen a decline of 4.1 percent from the previous month, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The agency said this reflected a fall back from the strong growth of 10.1 percent in March when the shoppers were panic buying.

Alcohol and tobacco stores, however, bucked the trend, growing at 2.3 percent, a further rise from the strong growth of 23.9 percent in March.

All stores within the non-food store sector had record falls, with clothing sales plunging by half compared with March.

At the same time, April saw a record 18-percent jump in online sales of goods overall. The proportion spent online soared to the highest on record at 30.7 percent, which compares with the 19.1 percent reported in April 2019.

James Smith, an economist with ING, said there might not be a quick bounce-back for retailers when the lockdown is lifted.

“Recent surveying from YouGov showed that just under half of people would be uncomfortable with returning to a clothing shop, although the jury is out on whether the public will become more relaxed by the time retailers do reopen next month,” he said.

(With Agencies)