US retail sales have plummeted 8.7 per cent in March, an unprecedented decline, as the viral outbreak forces an almost complete lock down of commerce across the country.
The deterioration of sales far outpaces the previous record decline of 3.9 per cent that took place during the depths of the global financial crisis in November 2008.
Car sales dropped 25.6 per cent while clothing store sales collapsed, sliding 50.5 per cent.
Restaurants and bars reported a nearly 27 per cent fall in revenue.
US consumer confidence has plunged and the vast majority of people are hunkered down at home under shelter-in-place orders.
Consumer spending drives two-thirds of the US economy, and the record drop in retail sales is a symptom of the sharp recession that most economists believe the US has already entered.
Economists at JPMorgan Chase now forecast the US economy will shrink by a record-shattering 40 per cent in the April-June quarter.
Signifying the titanic shift in consumer behaviour, grocery store sales jumped by nearly 26 per cent as people stocked up on food and consumer goods to ride out the pandemic.
The pullback in spending is intensifying the problems facing brick and mortar retailers which were already struggling with online competition. A category that mostly includes internet sales rose 3.1 per cent last month.