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UK Retail Sales Fall At Record Pace

UK retail sales declined at a record pace in April as many stores were temporarily closed to contain the spread of coronavirus, or Covid-19, data published by the Office for National Statistics showed on Friday.

The UK budget deficit widened to a record high in April due to the unprecedented increase in borrowing by the government amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Retail sales volume declined 18.1 percent on a monthly basis, which was the biggest monthly fall on record. Economists had forecast sales to decrease 16 percent after falling 5.2 percent in March.

Excluding auto fuel, retail sales were down 15.2 percent on month in April, bigger than the economists' forecast of 15 percent and a 3.8 percent decrease seen in March.

All sectors reported a monthly fall in April except non-store retailing and alcohol stores.

On a yearly basis, retail sales volume fell 22.6 percent versus March's 5.8 percent decrease and economists' forecast of 22.2 percent.

Excluding auto fuel, retail sales dropped 18.4 percent in April following a 4.2 percent drop in March. Economists had expected an 18.2 percent decrease.

In a separate communiqué, the ONS said the Covid-19 pandemic is expected to have a significant impact on the UK public sector finances.

In April, public sector net borrowing excluding public sector banks was GBP 62.1 billion, which was GBP 51.1 billion more than in same period last year. This was the highest borrowing in any month on record.

The ONS cautioned that these are initial estimates and the extent of the Covid-19 impact is uncertain.

Borrowing in the latest financial year ended March 2020 was estimated to have increased by GBP 22.5 billion from last year to GBP 62.7 billion.

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