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High Street: April’s retail sales figures will mean cull of indie stores – biggest slump since ONS figures started – 18% decline

April’s ONS retail sales results show overall sales collapsed -18.1% even as e-commerce boomed by 30.7%. The home delivery expert ParcelHero fears a massive die-off of indie stores.

Office of National Statistics (ONS) retail sales estimates for April will result in the extinction of many much-loved stores, fears the UK home delivery specialist ParcelHero. Scientists refer to the world’s biggest-ever extinction event 250 million years ago as ‘The Great Dying’, and ParcelHero says that the coronavirus could well create an equally catastrophic event on the High Street.

Today’s figures showed a massive -18.1% decline in the overall amount spent by shoppers, the steepest drop since the ONS started predicting figures. This unenviable record replaces the previous, worst-ever figure of -5.2 set just a month ago in March, at the beginning of the lockdown. In contrast, online sales rose to grab 30.7% of all sales. ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks MILT says April’s figures show only the fittest stores will survive:

 ‘April’s ONS retail estimates show we are looking on helplessly at the Great Dying of the High Street. The value of clothing and footwear sales crashed by -50.2% compared to March, for example. Even as High Street fashion spending collapsed, however, online clothing snatched 46.4% of overall clothing sales. Only the fittest stores can hope to survive, meaning responsive, e-commerce sites and those major brands with a strong omnichannel – physical and online – strategy. Local, independent shops with little online presence are highly unlikely to survive such a long lockdown; nor are many big-name brands that never fully integrated store and web sales.

‘2020’s roll call of retailers entering administration or closing entirely is growing every day. Animal, Oasis, Warehouse, Laura Ashley, BrightHouse, Cath Kidston, Debenhams, Beales, Johnsons Shoes and Antler, the posh luggage brand, have all been hit hard. Covid-19 has hastened the demise of many stores and the Great Dying is a truly global wipe out. Even America’s largest department store chain, J C Penney, went into bankruptcy protection this month.

 ‘Retailers must embrace omnichannel sales, with a completely integrated online and in-store experience. Otherwise, Britain’s shoppers may simply lose the habit of visiting stores as lockdown loosens. Key to this is encouraging Click & Collect. Integrated stores that enable customers to buy online and pick up in store will be ideally placed at the end of lockdown. People will want to enjoy limited social shopping once again, if only to get out of the house, but will need to know that if they make the effort to drive to a store, their item will be there.’

‘Household goods sales were hit nearly as badly as clothing, down -45.4% month on month, but online this retail sector soared by 38.1% compared to March, grabbing 55% of overall household goods sales. 

‘Britain’s couriers are, of course, still picking up from businesses and warehouses nationwide, which means shipping products directly to customers is just as easy as it ever has been for specialist retailers. We believe indie retailers do still have a chance of survival if they source home delivery services quickly. For more information on how retailers can compare and contrast carriers’ prices and services,

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