London: The UK's retail sales fell by 1.9 per cent in 2020 when compared with 2019, the largest annual drop since records began in 1997, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
"Because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 has seen the retail sector suffer its largest annual fall since records began of 1.9 per cent, with continued restrictions on non-essential retail impacting the sector as a whole," Xinhua news agency quoted the ONS as saying in a report issued on Friday.
Figures showed that retail sales in clothing stores decreased by 25.1 per cent in 2020 year-on-year, the largest annual plunge on record.
By contrast, online retail sales for 2020 increased by 46.1 per cent when compared with 2019, marking the sharpest yearly soar since 2008, the ONS data revealed.
"All sectors of retail reported large increases in total online sales in 2020," said the ONS, with online sales of food stores climbing by 79.3 per cent -- a record annual increase for the sector.
In December 2020, retail sales rose by 0.3 per cent monthly following a 4.1 per cent fall in November, said the ONS.
"Disappointing news on UK consumer spending in December as retail sales volumes rose just 0.3 per cent after a 4.1 per cent m/m dip in November as they were hampered by only a temporary re-opening of non-essential retailers," said Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to EY ITEM Club, a London-based economic forecasting group.
The ONS data came after the UK on Thursday recorded another 37,892 coronavirus cases and 1,290 deaths, as the country is stepping up efforts to vaccinate the people in a bid to bring the pandemic under control.
As of Saturday morning, the country's overall caseload and death toll stood at 3,594,094 and 96,166, respectively.
England is currently under the third national lockdown since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country.
Similar restriction measures are also in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.