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Alcohol sales soar in UK while wider retail plummets

While the UK’s wider retail sector has has one of its worst months on record, alcohol sales have bucked the trend.

Monthly retail sales volume fell sharply by 5.1% last month; the largest fall since the series began as many stores ceased trading from 23 March, according to the Office for National Statistics. It’s the steepest fall since the ONS started recording the data in 1996.

Clothing was one of the worst hit sectors, with a sharp fall of 35% month-on-month. The ONS said this was largely due to store closures.

But in the same period, alcohol sales volume actually rose 31.4%, while value rose 32.6%.

Supermarkets reported a strong increase in volume sales at 10.3%, while off-licences alcohol sales soared 31.4% in volume. Off-licenses, however make up less than 1% of total booze sales, with most consumers preferring to shop at supermarkets.

According to the figures, online shopping made up 22% of all transactions, a record high for e-commerce in the UK.

However, the ONS report added that alcohol sales can be more volatile for month-on-month growth rates. For example, a shopper could have stocked up on their drink of choice in March, and may not need to replenish their wine, beer or spirits supplies for another couple of months.

In March 2020, the value for food, household goods and other non-food items all increased sales in March by 15.3%, 18.0% and 16.4% respectively, showing strong growths when compared with the previous year at 3.3%, 1.0% and 4.2%.

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