Covid-19: Online sales for April hits record high amid huge overall fall in retail spend

Online spending as a proportion of all retail sales reached a record high for the second month running in the UK in April, at 30.7%, reflecting the considerable shift to eCommerce during the Covid-19 pandemic. In figures released by the ONS for the first full month in which non-essential stores were closed as a result of lockdown measures, overall retail sales fell by a record 18.1%.

The analysis showed there was a considerable month-on-month growth in online spending across all categories listed by the ONS apart from textile, clothing and footwear stores, which fell by 14.5%. The biggest increase was seen in food (55.8%), with UK supermarkets ramping up their online delivery capacity during this month in response to the crisis. This was followed by household goods stores (38.1%) as consumers adapted to staying indoors.

The overall proportion of online spending of 30.7% compared to the previous record set in March of 22.4%, when Covid-19 restrictions were first introduced. The categories which saw the biggest proportion of online spending were household goods stores (55.5%) and textile, clothing and footwear stores (46.4%).

The new ONS figures paint a bleak picture for retail as a whole, with sales declines observed across every category apart from non-store. This included a month-on-month fall in food of 4.1%, likely due to the bulk purchasing that took place in March. There was a particular large drop in clothing in April at 50.2%, reflecting the current difficulties for this sector.

Commenting on the findings, Ed Whitehead, managing director EMEA, Signifyd said: “As to be expected, the high street has been hit hard by lockdown restrictions and retail sales figures for April paint a bleak picture.

“What our data is showing, however, is that eCommerce in EMEA is going from strength to strength with online sales in May 51% higher than pre-pandemic levels. During this time eCommerce technology is giving retailers a fighting chance of survival when faced with temporary store closures, supply chain bottlenecks and workforce disruptions."