Online sales surge, but May brings little relief for retailers

Total like-for-like retail sales declined by 18.3 per cent in May, but from a base of 2.2 per cent for the equivalent month last year.

The latest BDO High Street sales tracker showed total in-store sales fell by 87.1 per cent year-on-year, while online sales increased by 129.5 per cent.

"May’s results reflect the complex reality of the ongoing lockdown for non-essential retail," the report explained. "While in-store like-for-like sales recorded another momentous low, non-store like-for-like sales documented a record high, since BDO began recording online sales in 2010."

Overall footfall was poor throughout the month of May, compared to the equivalent weeks in 2019, though it did show progressive improvement throughout the month.

Footfall at retail parks saw the biggest improvement, recording a decline of 63.2 per cent in the first week of the month, lessening to 48.9 per cent in the final week of May.

Both shopping centres and the high street continued to record declines in footfall closer to 80 per cent throughout May, aside from the final week of the month when the high street posted a ‘high’ of 75.8 per cent.

"Another month of lockdown has intensified pressure on UK retailers with cash flow difficulties affecting the vast majority and supply chain issues becoming increasingly pressing," stated BDO. "Retailers now face the immense logistical task of re-opening under strict guidelines and, in all likelihood, to significantly lower levels of footfall than usual as consumers cautiously return."

As retailers begin to re-open next month, a significant portion of consumers are likely to continue favouring online channels for their shopping experience over coming months as the spectre of COVID-19 and the potential of a secondary spike remain, concluded the report.

"While the challenges are many, retailers must find opportunity amidst the turmoil by engaging consumers through their preferred channels."

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