Retail sales saw their biggest monthly fall since records began over 30 years ago with large declines in clothing and fuel, only partially offset by strong food sales.
Retail sales reported the sharpest fall on record last month as clothing sales plunged by a third, according to new figures.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said total sales volumes dived 5.1 percent as many stores shut their doors in the face of the coronavirus.
It added that clothing store sales saw a particularly sharp fall when compared with February, moving 34.8 percent lower.
Meanwhile, food stores reported their strongest growth on record in March, as sales jumped 10.4 percent with shoppers stocking up on essential groceries.
Supermarkets saw sales volumes increase by 10.3% while alcohol-focused stores saw a 31.4 percent surge in volumes.
Meanwhile, the ONS said the total value of online food sales in March was more than double the same month last year, rising by 101 percent.
Rhian Murphy, head of retail sales at the ONS, said: "Retail sales saw their biggest monthly fall since records began over 30 years ago with large declines in clothing and fuel, only partially offset by strong food sales.
"Online-only retailers saw strong growth though, with many high street stores also unsurprisingly seeing a boost to web sales."
Total sales declined as increases in online sales failed to offset lower in-store sales, after non-essential stores were told to close their doors on March 23.
It said a record high of 22.3 percent of sales were made online as delivery operations continued.
Ayush Ansal, chief investment officer at Crimson Black Capital, said: "This is retail Armageddon.
"While the January retail sales data showed signs of the Boris Bounce, the March data reflected the Covid-19 collapse.
"Unsurprisingly, food stores performed well in March and more people than ever started to buy online."
Henry Saker-Clark is the PA City reporter.