UK government borrowing hits record high in April and retail sales slump – business live

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Rolling coverage of the latest economic and financial news, as UK public borrowing soars to £62bn in a single month and retail sales slump by 18%

Here’s our economics editor Larry Elliott on the jump in UK borrowing:

The government was forced to borrow a record £62bn to balance its books in April as the public finances felt the strain from a shutdown of the economy that saw high street spending plummet by an unprecedented 18%.

Figures from the office for national statistics highlighted the dramatic impact of the Covid-19 restrictions introduced in late March on activity – with public borrowing up by more than £50bn on the same month a year earlier and spending in clothes stores down by 50%.

Related: UK government borrows record £62bn as high street feels strain of crisis

Britain’s retailers are suffering from one of the most “profound shifts” in consumer behaviour in a century, says Lynda Petherick, managing director at Accenture.

April was always going to be the month when the full force of government lockdown measures would hit retailers. Clothing has continued to suffer, and though there are still some bright spots in grocery, “panic-buying” and online household goods orders subsided slightly as consumers continued to restrict their shopping trips.

Yes – these are hard times for the sector, however there are lessons to be learned if retailers are to come out the other side of the pandemic ready to respond. Online sales continue to reach new heights, suggesting that consumers have been quick to shift their buying habits – a trend which is only likely to continue. Retailers will need to act quickly and deliberately to improve their capabilities if they are to drive growth and profitability in an increasingly digital future.”

However bad April’s figures are, we believe that retail has reached a turning point in the Covid-19 crisis. In the short term, May has already seen a loosening of lockdown restrictions across all the home nations. Indeed, enterprising operators have begun to reopen cautiously, from garden centres to some furniture stores coming back for the bank holiday weekend.

UK retail sales volumes plunged -18.1%m/m in April, following a -5.2%m/m fall in March. Internet sales up to to a record 30.7% of all sales. Non-store retailing (mail order) sales volumes up 18%m/m. All other retail sectors saw sales volumes sharply down on the previous month.

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