Worst year on record for UK retail

BRC-KPMG Retail sales monitor records poor performance for UK retail

2019 was the worst year on record for British rtail, with dales falling for the first time in 24 years, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and a advsory firm KPMG. Total sales slipped by 0.1 per cent in 2019, the lowest since BRC and KPMG started monitoring the sector in 1995.

According to the findings, November and December influenced the downturn, seeing a 0.9 per cent fall in sales in the months when many retailers usually achieve most of their annual profit.

Part of the reason may be attributed to an increase spend in experiential activities, as Barclaycard figures for December marked a rise in sales of cinema tickets (19 per cent), spending in pubs (11.7 per cent), and spending on takeway food (12.5 per cent).

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, commented: “At first glance retailers’ relentlessness paid off in December, with total sales up 1.9 per cent. However, the later timing of Black Friday will have skewed the outcome. If looking at November and December combined, sales actually declined by 0.9 per cent.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive at the British Retail Consortium, commented: “2019 was the worst year on record and the first year to show an overall decline in retail sales. This was also reflected in the CVAs, shop closures and job losses that the industry suffered in 2019.

“Twice the UK faced the prospect of a no deal Brexit, as well as political instability that concluded in a December General Election – further weakening demand for the festive period. The industry continues to transform in response to the changing technologies and shopping habits.

“Black Friday overtook Christmas as the biggest shopping week of the year for non-food items. Retailers also faced challenges as consumers became both more cautious and more conscientious as they went about their Christmas shopping.

“Looking forward, the public’s confidence in Britain’s trade negotiations will have a big impact on spending over the coming year. There are many ongoing challenges for retailers: to drive up productivity, continue to raise wages, improve recyclability of products and cut waste.

“However, this takes resources, so it is essential the new Government makes good on its promise to review, and then reform the broken business rates system which sees retail pay 25 per cent of all business rates, while accounting for 5 per cent of the economy.”

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