Coronavirus: What Brits are buying and not buying during lockdown

Lianna BrindedHead of Yahoo Finance UK
Yahoo Finance UK
Full shopping cart in supermarket aisle. Photo: Getty
Full shopping cart in supermarket aisle. Photo: Getty

UK retail sales fell off a cliff in April, following a nationwide lockdown leading to the shuttering of shops across Britain.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that in the full month since the UK government placed the nation under lockdown, sales cratered amongst a majority of sectors — but there were some bright spots.

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Looking into the full data set from the ONS, you can see what Britons were buying at a greater rate during the lockdown .

Alcohol and tobacco

Photo: Getty
Photo: Getty

While overall UK retail sales fell by 18.1% in April, alcohol and tobacco sales went up by 2.3%. This followed a 23.9% increase in sales in March.

The ONS pointed out, however, that 13.6% of alcohol and tobacco stores reported having zero turnover — the amount of money a business takes during a particular period.

Clothing — but only online

Source: Office for National Statistics – Monthly Business Survey – Retail Sales Inquiry
Source: Office for National Statistics – Monthly Business Survey – Retail Sales Inquiry

April data shows the sharpest decline in the volume of textile, clothing and footwear sales since records began in 1988, at -14.5%.

However, Brits have been flocking online to buy clothes.

Clothing stores still reached a record proportion of online sales at 46.4% when compared with 26.6% in March 2020.

Buying food online

Photo: Getty
Photo: Getty

Overall online sales as a proportion of all retailing reached a record high of 30.7% in April 2020.

For food in particular, more and more Brits flocked to online services. The ONS said that “there was a larger uptake of online spending for food as its proportion of online spending increased from 5.7% to 9.3%.”

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