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ONS figures show High Street decline

24 April 2020

The ONS figures showed in March 2020, the monthly retail sales volume fell sharply by 5.1%; the largest fall since the series began as many stores ceased trading from 23 March following official government guidance during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In March 2020, clothing store sales saw a sharp fall when compared with the previous month, at negative 34.8%. March ONS retail sales results show eCommerce sales rose 12.5% YOY in the wake of the Covid-19 epidemic.

Dr. Kerstin Braun, president of Stenn Group, a global trade finance provider, said: “Retail shops were already suffering before the coronavirus as a result of changing consumer behaviour. The Covid-19 pandemic has only escalated the decline of the high street and is likely to speed up these shift to online.

"Due to restrictions and reduced incomes people will be buying less, and further administration filings are inevitable. SMEs, which make up 35% of retail sales, will be hit the hardest and we know that recovery will not be easy. Lenders have been traditionally reluctant to provide loans to shops however rent support programmes, similar to those for furloughed staff, could help to stem the damage and control the effects.

"Fortunately, we will soon see a slow reopening and some return to normality. This will undoubtedly come with new social distancing behaviours that we have already been practising and feel like second nature to us now. Life may not go back to as it was before but even this will be a welcome change."

ParcelHero’s head of consumer research, David Jinks MILT added: “Back in 2016, our report, Death of the High Street, predicted half of the UK’s existing High Street businesses would collapse by 2030. With Animal, Oasis, Warehouse, Laura Ashley, BrightHouse, Cath Kidston and Debenhams all entering administration in recent days, we believe Covid-19 has simply hastened their demise.

“Britain’s big retail brands must truly embrace omnichannel sales, with a completely integrated online and in-store experience, once social distancing measures are relaxed. Otherwise, Britain’s shoppers may simply lose the habit of visiting stores.”