Covid-19: BDO figures show online sales jumped by 130% in May

UK online retail sales were up by 129.5% year on year in May but overall discretionary spend fell by nearly a fifth due to the coronavirus-prompted closure of stores across the country.

That is according to the accountancy and professional services firm BDO’s latest monthly tracker, which showed May experienced record highs in online retail.

The High Street Sales Tracker (HSST) showed like-for-like sales – consisting of both in-store and non-store sales – declined by 18.3% in May. It was the second worst result on record, just above April’s historic low as the Covid-19 lockdown measures first took hold.

BDO said in-store sales were at “a momentous low”, but spoke of an accelerated shift towards eCommerce. This reflects other retail sales monitors, and it remains to be seen what lasting impact the shift in consumer spending patterns has as stores continue to reopen throughout the course of the next few weeks.

Fashion like-for-like sales dropped by 22.6% year on year, although BDO noted that online sales in this sector had picked up from recent months. Homeware sales were reported to be up by 22%, with growth driven by some of the pure-play online retailers BDO tracks.

Sophie Michael, head of retail & wholesale at BDO, commented: “Despite the significant pick-up in eCommerce, the monumental collapse in discretionary spend remains stark as retailers continue to face challenging headwinds.

“As shops look to reopen on the 15 June, they will face disrupted supply chains, mounting out of season stock and reduced footfall, as well as staffing uncertainty. These problems will be further compounded with the financial burden of implementing new measures to keep staff and customers safe.”

She added: “While government support so far has provided a lifeline, the reality is that the situation on the high street will remain critical for the foreseeable future. More than ever, retailers will be looking to both central government and local authorities for creative solutions to ensure the high street has a viable future as lockdown restrictions continue to lift.”