Coronavirus blamed for high street woes as shoppers shun crowds | Business News

Coronavirus is being blamed for continuing high street woes, as consumers opt for takeaways and box sets over shopping with the crowds.

Barclaycard, which handles nearly half of the UK’s credit and debit card transactions, said nearly three in 10 shoppers avoided the high street and other busy places in February due to virus fears.

Meanwhile, spending on takeaways and fast food increased by 8.7% on an annual basis and digital content and subscriptions spending was up 12.4%.

Spending on airlines and travel agents decreased by 0.7% and 0.3% annually in February, while spending on clothing fell by 1.7% annually.

Supermarket spending saw a 1.3% annual increase.

Ed Conway explains how the coronavirus has affected the markets

Ed Conway explains the extent to which the markets have been affected by coronavirus fears

More than a third (36%) of adults surveyed also said they are being prudent with their spending and more than half (54%) are worried about the rising prices of necessities.

Esme Harwood, director at Barclaycard, said: “Storms, floods, and fears about the spread of coronavirus have kept many Brits away from the high street this month.

“Despite this, broader consumer spending has held up as people put their money towards enjoying a takeaway and digital subscriptions.”

Retail sales were up only slightly during February, according to another report by the British Retail Consortium and KPMG.

The BRC-KPMG sales monitor said retail sales increased by just 0.1% but were down by 0.4% compared with a year earlier on a like-for-like basis.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: “Despite many indicators suggesting a rise in confidence among UK shoppers in recent months, this has failed to translate into higher retail sales.

“However, the end of the month saw a slight rise in spending on food and healthcare as a result of concerns around coronavirus.”

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG said: “The highly anticipated ‘Boris bounce’ has clearly struggled to materialise in the embroiled retail sector, and looking ahead, COVID-19 isn’t likely to help matters.”

He said the subdued grocery sector has shown a slight recovery, adding: “Although the edging up of prices will have contributed to that growth. In the short-term, any potential supply chain disruption caused by COVID-19 will be felt acutely by grocers, so developments will have to be watched closely.”

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