Online sales soar to 10-year high

05 June 2020

But overall discretionary spend falls by nearly a fifth as retailers’ pandemic pressures mount.

Struggling British retailers recorded record highs for online sales in May while the continued lockdown measures kept high streets empty, new figures by accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP reveal.

According to BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker (HSST), total like-for-like sales, consisting of both in-store and non-store sales, declined by -18.3% in May, but from a base of +2.2% for May 2019. This was the second worst result on record, just above April’s historic low due to the coronavirus lockdown that has prompted a collapse in consumer discretionary spending.

While in-store sales fell to a momentous low, non-store like-for-like sales hit a record high with a +129.5% lift year on year. This month’s result is the largest increase since BDO began recording non-store like-for-like sales in 2010, as the shift to ecommerce continued to accelerate.

Lifestyle total life-for-like sales plunged by -30.0% in May from a base of +1.4% for the equivalent month last year, marking the fourth consecutive decline this year, and the second lowest like-for-like on record for the category.

Similarly, fashion total like-for-like sales dropped by -22.6% this month from a base of +2.7% for May last year. The result is the third straight negative result for total fashion like-for-like sales. However, the category did see a slight improvement on previous months due to slightly higher online spending.

While in-store sales for homeware continued to show the impact of the lockdown with a -99.1% drop in May, total like-for-like sales were lifted +22.0% by the strong performance of some pure-play online retailers in the sector in addition to a higher proportion of sales across non-store channels in general.

Sophie Michael, Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO LLP, said: “Despite the significant pick-up in ecommerce, the monumental collapse in discretionary spend remains stark as retailers continue to face challenging headwinds.

“As shops look to reopen on the 15thJune, they will face disrupted supply chains, mounting out of season stock and reduced footfall, as well as staffing uncertainty. These problems will be further compounded with the financial burden of implementing new measures to keep staff and customers safe.

“While government support so far has provided a lifeline, the reality is that the situation on the high street will remain critical for the foreseeable future. More than ever, retailers will be looking to both central Government and local authorities for creative solutions to ensure the high street has a viable future as lockdown restrictions continue to lift.”


Note to editors

Accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP provides integrated advice and solutions to help businesses navigate a changing world.

Our clients are Britain’s economic engine – ambitious, entrepreneurially-spirited and high growth businesses that fuel the economy. 

We share our clients’ ambitions and their entrepreneurial mind-set. We have the right combination of global reach, integrity and expertise to help them succeed. 


BDO LLP operates in 17 offices across the UK, employing 5,500 people offering tax, audit and assurance, and a range of advisory services. BDO LLP is the UK member firm of the BDO International network.

BDO’s global network

The BDO global network provides business advisory services in 167 countries, with 88,000 people working out of 1,800 offices worldwide. It has revenues of $9.6bn. 


Erin Dodds or Sophie Isles
Tel: 07802416548 or 07964445820
Email: [email protected]