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Retailers Suffered Worst Year on Record for Sales Growth in 2020

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Retailers in the UK endured what was statistically their worst year on record in terms of sales growth during 2020.

The previous year was a tough one too for retailers, largely due to uncertainty around Brexit, but the Covid-19 crisis has ensured that 2020 was yet more challenging for operators in the sector.

According to the latest British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG retail sales monitor, there was a decline of 0.3 per cent in overall sales levels across all retailers last year.

Among the retailers to suffer most in terms of sales rate declines during 2020 were those reliant primarily on in-store activity and those focussed solely on non-food offerings.

Various Covid-related restrictions and enforced lockdowns dampened sales for most of last year for retailers in general but particularly for those categorised as ‘non-essential’.

The normally busy pre-Christmas period brought “little respite” for most retailers, with many parts of the UK heading back into a strict lockdown in mid-December.

According to Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, the current lockdown situation means retailers are losing out on billions of pounds in revenues and many will be “struggling to survive” if they do not get the financial support they need in the coming weeks.

Ms Dickinson has called for the government to urgently announce an extension to its business rates relief policy to help the retailers being most badly affected by the unfolding virus crisis.

“Further restrictions and the closure of many non-essential shops resulted in a dismal December performance for those retailers on the high street,” commented Paul Martin from KPMG in a statement.

“Looking ahead, fortunes will be mixed but pent up savings and a successful vaccine roll out will help support recovery in the retail sector later in the year,” he added.  

According to the latest data, although 2020 was exceptionally tough for most retailers, there was an unprecedentedly high level of money spent on food and drink over the Christmas and New Year period.

“There was a significant uplift in online grocery shopping over the festive period,” researchers working on the BRC-KPMG sales monitor noted.

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