Retail sales at lowest July level on record
Written by Peter Walker
UK retail sales increased by 0.3 per cent in July, on a total basis, against an increase of 1.6 per cent in July 2018 – but this was still the lowest figure recorded for the month of July since records began in 1995 and after the worst June on records.
The latest British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG figures also found that on a like-for-like basis, sales fell by 0.1 per cent year-on-year last month.
Over the three months to July, in-store sales of non-food items declined 4.1 per cent on a total basis and four per cent on a like-for-like basis. Over the same time period, food sales decreased by one per cent on a like-for-like basis and 0.3 per cent on a total basis.
Online sales of non-food products grew 3.7 per cent in July, against growth of 7.5 per cent in July 2018. The non-food online penetration rate increased from 28.4 per cent in July 2018 to 29.8 per cent last month.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said that while retailers will welcome the return to growth, it has nonetheless been a punishing few months for the industry.
“The combination of slow real wage growth and Brexit uncertainty has left consumer spending languishing with the 12-month average total sales falling to a new low of just 0.5 per cent.
“The challenging retail environment is taking its toll on many High Street brands which must contend with rising import costs, a multitude of public policy costs, and ever higher business rates – a coherent strategy for retail is needed,” she stated.
Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, commented: “Given the weather it’s unsurprising that shoppers reconsidered their wardrobe, but it was online retailers who benefitted most once again – online non-food sales overall actually grew by only 3.7 per cent, which is considerably lower than previous years.
“With consumer confidence holding up in the face of prolonged Brexit uncertainly, shoppers are notably disengaged overall,” he continued, adding: “The pressure continues to build between online and physical offerings, costs continues to rise and the demands of consumers continue to grow. The key question is, who can handle the heat?”