Retail sales ‘flatline’ in August

Sales were flat in August on a total basis, against an increase of 1.3 per cent the previous year, according to the latest British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG figures.

UK retail sales decreased by 0.5 per cent on a like-for-like basis from August 2018, when they had increased 0.2 per cent from the preceding year.

Over the three months to August, in-store sales of non-food items declined three per cent on a total and like-for-like basis. Over the same period, food sales decreased 0.3 per cent on a like-for-like basis, but increased 0.5 per cent on a total basis.

Online sales of non-food products grew 2.2 per cent in August, against a growth of 7.5 per cent in August 2018.

The non-food online penetration rate increased from 28 per cent in August last year to 29.5 per cent last month.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson commented that greater economic and political uncertainty has driven down consumer demand, and while the summer weather gave a small boost to food sales, this was cancelled out by a drop in non-food sales.

“Summer discounting and poor footfall have hit in-store sales particularly hard – if the government wants to avoid seeing further store closures and job losses on the UK High Street, they must take action.”

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, called August “another incredibly disappointing month for retail”, which many brands being focussed on preservation, not growth, in this uncertain climate.

“The rhythm of the back-to-school promotions did provide some reprieve, bolstering sales of children’s fashion and footwear,” he explained, adding that this also appeared to benefit fashion sales more broadly.

“As has been the case for some time now, online sales outperformed the High Street, but with growth as low as 2.2 per cent, it’s clear that even this channel has slowed down drastically.”

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