As extraordinary measures to control the spread of coronavirus shut down Britain in April, high street retailers suffered a catastrophic month, 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, both in-store and non-store, dropped -29.6% this month from a base of +1.8% in April 2019.
Non-store sales soared +109.6% as Brits in lockdown had to rely increasingly on ecommerce. But even the strongest ever result for online sales (since BDO began recording for the channel in 2010) couldn’t offset the impact of Britain’s largely closed high streets, underscoring the significant long-term challenges now facing retailers.
As all but essential shops remained closed, every sector recorded steep declines. Lifestyle total like-for-like sales fell by -40.1% in April from a base of +2.4% for the equivalent month last year, marking a historic fall for the category and the third consecutive month of negative sales.
Fashion total like-for-like sales similarly sank by -31.4% this month from a base of +1.5% for April last year. This month’s result represents the second consecutive double-digit decline for total fashion like-for-like sales, and the first time that the category posted two negative months in a row since BDO began recording total like-for-like sales in 2017.
Lastly, homeware total like-for-like sales plummeted by -23.9% in April, but from a base of +5.7% for the equivalent month last year. The result is the third straight month of negative like-for-like sales for total homeware and the worst on record for the category.
Sophie Michael, Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO LLP, said: “Consumer behaviour has changed drastically during lockdown with a major acceleration in the shift from store to online. But even when restrictions ease and the high street re-opens, it seems likely that this will have a lasting impact on consumer behaviour.
“Faced with a drop in consumer confidence, worsening job security, and lower spending in the economy, retailers will have to adapt their business models and strategies for the “new norm”. These results reveal that almost a third of discretionary spend was wiped out in April. With such a significant amount of spend removed, retailers will be focussing on preserving cash, engaging their customers through online channels, and building operational efficiency.
“While the government has offered unprecedented short-term support, retailers need visibility and certainty of aid beyond June in order to plan for the longer term and re-build confidence among consumers.”
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Erin Dodds or Sophie Isles
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