Sharpest decline in retail sales on record as store closures bite

Coronavirus closed sign

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has recorded the steepest decline in retail sales in March since the tracker was launched in 1996.

Despite a surge in grocery sales, overall retail sales plunged 5.1% month on month in March, exacerbated by a 34.8% plummet in clothing sales.

The ONS attributed the sharp decline to the government ordering non-essential store closures on March 23.

Food and online sales were the category to register growth during the period, with grocery sales registering the strongest growth of 10.4%. Online sales accounted for a record 22.3% of overall retail sales in the month as shoppers flocked online amid store closures.

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