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Wednesday 20 March 2019


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Worst Christmas for retail since 2008

Written by Peter Walker

Sales figures were flat in December, against an increase of 1.4 per cent in December 2017, representing the worst Christmas period performance since the last recession.

The latest British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG figures also showed that this is the lowest growth since last April, excluding Easter distortions, and below the three-month and 12-month averages of 0.5 per cent and 1.2 per cent respectively.

In December, UK retail sales decreased by 0.7 per cent on a like-for-like basis from the previous year, when they had increased 0.6 per cent from the preceding year.

The 12-month average for 2018 saw sales rise by 1.2 per cent on a total basis – comprised of 3.1 per cent rise in food sales and 0.3 per cent in non-food sales on a total basis.

Online sales of non-food products grew 5.8 per cent in December, against a growth of 7.6 per cent the previous year. This is above the three-month average of 5.5 per cent, but below the 12-month average of 6.9 per cent.
However, the online penetration rate increased from 29.1 per cent in December 2017 to 31.2 per cent last month.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson explained that squeezed consumers chose not to splash out this Christmas with retail sales growth stalling for the first time in 28 months.

“The worst December sales performance in ten years means a challenging start to 2019 for retailers, with business rates set to rise once again this year, and the threat of a no-deal Brexit looming ever larger.”

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, noted that the figures comes despite some retailers desperately attempting to generate sales through slashed pricing.

“Growth in food did provide a glimmer of hope, being among the few categories to notice an uptick,” he stated. “However, the continued contrast in performance between the high street and online remained evident in December – albeit 2018 did also see a continued slowdown in online retail sales.”

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