Beast from the East delivers biggest drop in high street sales in almost a decade

Sudbury shoppers brace the snowy conditions. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Sudbury shoppers brace the snowy conditions. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The Beast from the East caused the biggest fall in high street retail sales for nearly 10 years, figures show.

Year-on-year sales dropped by 10.1% for March, according to BDO’s High Street Sales Tracker (HSST).

The only time a single month has seen a more severe dip was November 2008, when the UK was simultaneously battling snow and a global financial crisis.

It was also the worst month on record for fashion sales, which were down 12.7% year-on-year, and homewares, down 13.2%.

Sales of lifestyle goods rallied thanks to Mother’s Day, but the sector’s year-on-year dip of 4.5% for the month was still the second worst on record.

But the month’s two snowstorms affected online sales as well, with year-on-year growth of 11% the lowest monthly increase since December 2015.

The news is likely to be little better looking ahead to April, with the tracker reporting flat growth for the week leading up to Easter Sunday amid a weekend of wet weather.

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Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO LLP, said: “However you look at it, March was a brutal month for stores.

“The weather was severe, and shoppers’ reaction showed how paper-thin consumer confidence is currently.

“People couldn’t get to the shops, but they weren’t spending online to make up the shortfall either. Whilst many have cited this to be due to consumers not trusting deliveries to get through, it’s also a clear indicator of the wavering underlying spending power.”

She added: “Given this disappointing start to April, it is likely that retailers will continue to face significant pressures in their attempts to making up the shortfall that has been experienced so far this year.”