For April, all retail sales (excl fuel) were down 18.6% while food sales were up 5.8% for the period. Predominantly non-food stores saw a 54.6% drop in retail sales for the month compared to the year before.
Clothing and footwear fared the worst with retail sales down 69.1%. Household goods were down 51.7% and electrical household appliances were down 22.3%. Online retailing for April was up 32.9% for the month.
“With all non-essential stores closed in April we knew the sector was looking at its worst month on record, but the full results still make for stark reading. A 18.6% decline in all retail sales (on a non-seasonally adjusted basis) is obviously a record, but the numbers show the stark difference in trading in food and non-food sales and a significant uptick in online sales (+32.9%).
Whilst growth in the grocery sector (+5.8%) slowed from its record high in March (+12.4%) this is still the fastest growth we have seen since 2016, highlighting the continued uptick in in-home food and drink purchasing. Online growth in grocery was at record (+83.6%) levels, accelerating from March (+19.9%) a trend helped by the additional capacity brought online by the grocers and continued concern around visiting stores from consumers. However even at record levels online accounted for less than 10% (9.3%) of sales in the sector.
In non-foods online sales soared 35.0% to reach £639m in average weekly sales, not far from the level we expect to see during Black Friday and Christmas. However the combination of consumers holding back and the closure of stores mean that overall non-food sales were down 54.6%. These are unprecedented numbers and should serve to highlight how much financial pressure will be being placed on the non-food sector currently.
Fashion has been by far the hardest hit sector, with clothing (-69.0%) and footwear (-77.1%) down sharply. The deeper declines here are in part due to one of the largest players having no trade at all in the month (Primark) and another either not trading or trading online in a limited capacity (Next). Indeed what is particularly notable in the data is that store-based fashion retailers were the only group which saw online sales decline (-21.0%) in April, which will have certainly given online-only players a boost – as the results at the likes of Boohoo demonstrate.
Away from fashion there were significant declines in all big-ticket categories, including furniture (+75.8%) and computers & telecoms (-70.4%) with household appliances, in the context of the current market, faring a little better (-22.3%). Even with essential status health and beauty (-35.3%) and DIY (-38.8%) were significantly down in April.
We will be analysing these results in more detail in this month’s UK Retail Briefing and our Consumers and the Economic Outlook Report – UK, May 2020 Reports, but the short story is that retail faced a two pronged hit in April. Not only from store closures but from the weakness in consumer confidence and unwillingness to spend on discretionary goods. The data for May will likely look much the same, due to store closures, but it is the hesitancy to spend on discretionary categories and big-ticket which we expect to impact the sector through much of 2020 – meaning even when stores open their doors, trade will be significantly impacted.”