Retail sales plunge -29.6% year-on-year due to coronavirus

08 May 2020

Historic high for online sales can’t prevent pandemic from ravaging discretionary spend

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.”


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: +44 07802 416548 or +44 0796 4445820
Email: [email protected]