March saw the worst decline in sales since 1996 across the High Street.
Figures from the British Retail Consortium show that last month’s total sales were down by 1.9 per cent compared to last year, according to the BBC. Like-for-like sales were down by 3.5 per cent – their worst decline in almost six years.
The only growth sector was footwear, with all others suffering a drop in sales, including electrical, food and drink, clothing, homeware, and electrical. Even online sales, which have usually bucked overall sales declines, saw their slowest growth since records began in 2008.
The BRC said consumers were trying not to spend “unless they really had to” and admitted that last year’s early timing of Easter would have affected figures. It added that “uncomfortably high inflation and low wage growth have produced the first year-on-year fall in disposable income for 30 years”.
“Falling disposable incomes and the fear of worse to come means people don’t want to spend,” added BRC director general Stephen Robertson. “There’s only so much discounts and promotions can do to overcome that.”
Research firm KMPG’s head of retail Helen Dickinson added: “We have seen an emergence of new, lower spending patterns since the middle of January, which are currently continuing to trend downwards.
“Many retailers will not be able to sustain this ongoing weakness in demand beyond the short-term and are hoping for some good news around the extended bank holiday period and a feel-good factor driven by the royal wedding.”