UK retailers suffered their biggest fall in sales since the 2008 financial crisis in the first half of April as the coronavirus kept shoppers at home and forced store closures, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said yesterday.
Together with official figures for March and an earlier survey from the British Retail Consortium, yesterday's numbers showed the sector was on track for a historic decline, as a boost from stockpiling food fades.
"The lockdown is hitting retailers hard. Two-fifths have shut up shop completely for now," CBI chief economist Rain Newton-Smith said.
Two-thirds of retailers said the coronavirus had hurt sales, and 44pc had laid off staff temporarily, while 8pc made permanent job cuts.
The UK's total economic output could fall by more than a third in the second quarter of this year due to measures to slow the spread of Covid-19 that have closed most non-essential stores, the government's budget forecasters have said.
The CBI distributive trades survey's retail sales balance fell to -55 in April from -3 in March, matching the series' record low set in December 2008. The expected reading for May is -54.
"Near-term fundamentals for consumer spending have clearly taken a substantial downturn as a result of coronavirus," said Howard Archer, of EY ITEM Club, which predicts a 15pc fall in consumer spending during the second quarter.
While supermarkets benefited from consumer stockpiling in March, the CBI said this went into reverse in early April.
"Households may have been dipping into stockpiles built up prior to the lockdown or tightening their belts more generally as incomes take a hit," Ms Newton-Smith said.
Figures from retail data company Kantar showed a 5.5pc rise in grocery spending in the four weeks to April 19.