June 4, 2020 / 11:20 PM / a month ago

UK retail sales dive 18% in May as lockdown bites: BDO

FILE PHOTO: A man and his dog walk by closed shops in Widnes, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Widnes, Britain, May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - British retailers saw sales plunge by nearly a fifth in May as the government’s coronavirus lockdown measures kept shopping streets empty, a survey showed on Friday.

Accountancy and business advisory firm BDO said its monthly High Street Sales Tracker (HSST) found total like-for-like sales, consisting of both in-store and non-store (online) sales, declined by 18.3% in May - the second worst result on record after April’s 29.6% decline.

BDO highlighted a 22.6% fall in fashion sales.

Britain went into lockdown on March 23 to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, with all retail stores deemed “non essential” forced to close.

However, outdoor markets and car showrooms were allowed to open from June 1 and all other non-essential retail is set to follow from June 15 if the government’s social distancing requirements are met.

With many retailers continuing to trade online during the lockdown, BDO recorded a 129.5% year-on-year jump in non-store like-for-like sales - the largest increase since it began measuring in 2010.

“Despite the significant pick-up in ecommerce, the monumental collapse in discretionary spend remains stark as retailers continue to face challenging headwinds,” said Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO.

“As shops look to reopen on June 15, they will face disrupted supply chains, mounting out of season stock and reduced footfall, as well as staffing uncertainty.”

Last month, the Bank of England said it was plausible that both consumer spending and broader economic output would fall by around a quarter during the three months to June, and that output for 2020 could suffer its biggest hit in over 300 years.

Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Mark Potter

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