Retail sales in 2020 see biggest fall since records began

British retail sales saw their largest annual fall in history last year as the impact of the pandemic took its toll.

Sales fell by 1.9% in 2020, when compared with 2019, the largest year-on-year fall since records began in 1997, official figures show.

Clothes shops were hit hard, with a record annual fall of more than 25%.

The drop came despite a slight pick-up in December, as a brief easing of some lockdown measures meant more stores were able to open.

Retail sales, including fuel, increased by 0.3% last month when compared with November.

Clothing sales also reported strong monthly growth of 21.5%, recovering from a large fall in November when non-essential retailers were closed because of lockdown restrictions.

But some sectors “were able to buck the trend in 2020”, according to the ONS.

“The increased popularity of click and collect and people buying more items from home led to a strong year for overall internet sales, with record highs for food and household goods sales online,” said deputy national statistician for Economic Statistics Jonathan Athow.

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