UK retail sales plummeted by 27% during the first two weeks of the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown, according to the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
Overall, total sales in March fell by 4.3% when compared with the same month in 2019. Demand rose sharply in the early part of the month, with sales surging by 12% as shoppers stocked up on food and other essential items ahead of the restrictions coming into force.
However, the two weeks to 4 April saw a nosedive in activity after the lockdown began and drove March to the worst performance – when stripping out seasonal distortions – since the survey began in 1995.
Commenting on the figures, Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the BRC, said: 'The closure of non-essential shops led to deserted high streets and high double-digit declines in sales, which even a rise in online shopping could not compensate for.'
Separately, Barclaycard figures suggested a huge boost in supermarket sales as people stockpiled food.
The data from Barclaycard suggests that supermarket purchases rose by 20% in March, while spending at restaurants contracted by 35%, and pub sales fell by 22% in the month.