The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has revealed that retail sales during March were propped up by households stockpiling goods.
Overall, retail sales were flat in the year to March, the CBI found. However, grocers reported 'exceptionally strong' growth in sales volumes in the year to March, alongside specialist food and drinks firms.
The data suggests that households stockpiled groceries in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the introduction of social distancing. However, individuals are putting off purchases of non-essential items, according to the CBI. Internet sales growth slowed to a 'below-average pace'.
'These are extraordinary times for the retail sector,' said Ben Jones, Principal Economist at the CBI.
'Grocers are seeing a temporary increase in demand because of coronavirus. But many other retailers are seriously suffering as households put off non-essential purchases and social distancing keeps people away from the high street.
'What's needed now is clarity over the support available to firms and fast action to ensure measures announced . . . are accessible to businesses of all sizes.'