In March 2020 the seasonally adjusted index of retail trade sharply fell by 20.5% in value terms in the month on month series, while the volume decreased by 21.3%. These are the largest drops since the series began, as many stores ceased trading from 11 March following official government guidance during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In the first quarter of 2020 value and volume of retail sales were down -5.8% and -5.9% respectively when compared with the fourth quarter of 2019.
The year-on-year series shows a strong decline in March 2020, as value decreased by -18.4% and volume dropped by -19.5%. Although value of food sales rose by +3.5%, value of non-food sales was down 36.0% from March 2019.
Large-scale distribution fell by 9.3% compared with the same period a year earlier, while small-scale distribution reported an even stronger reduction of 28.2%.
In March 2020, non-store sales were down 37.9% in the year on year series.
Online sales was the only channel of distribution recording a growth, increasing by 20.7% when compared with the same month a year earlier.
Looking at the value of sales for non-food products, all categories fell sharply in the year on year series. The largest drops were reported for clothing (-57.1%), sporting equipment, games and toys (-54.2%), and shoes, leather goods and travel items (-54.1%), while pharmaceutical products was the category suffering the least with a negative 6.3%.
The COVID-19 pandemic emergency affected the data collection of the survey and a moderate fall in the response rate was registered. New strategies were implemented to deal with the missing responses in order to calculate and release accurate indices for March 2020 (for further details see Methodological note, page 8)