Written by: Keith Tully
Published: 14th November 2019
A relative slump in performance during October has seen retail sales growth slow to its most sluggish pace since April 2018.
That’s according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which show that overall sales across the retail sector increased by just 0.2 per cent in the three months to October, as compared to the previous quarter.
Those numbers represent the slowest sales growth rate seen in 18 months and are being taken as another indication that operators within the UK’s retail sector are currently faced with consistently tough trading conditions.
Several well-known high street retail companies have entered administration in recent days, including the baby and maternity products firm Mothercare, which is to close all of its 79 UK stores and shed close to 3,000 jobs over the next few months.
Meanwhile, Mamas & Papas, another maternity and babywear retailer, recently entered a pre-pack administration deal in order to close some of its stores and in an effort to gain a stronger financial footing.
According to the ONS, the number of items bought from retailers across the country fell by 0.1 per cent during October as compared with the numbers for September.
Economists had been expecting to see October’s sales up by around 3.7 per cent compared to the same month of 2018 but the increase actually came in at a considerably lower level of 3.1 per cent.
“These latest ONS figures are symptomatic of the challenges facing the retail sector after a year fraught with uncertainty,” said Lynda Petherick, head of retail at the management consultancy firm Accenture.
A recurring theme among struggling British retailers and their industry representatives in recent months has been calls for action to be taken to reform the business rates regime currently in place.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) also recently called for steps to be taken to improve the apprenticeship framework in ways that help retailers and their employees throughout the country.
“Fixing the broken business rates system and reforming the Apprenticeship Levy would help unlock the necessary investment into skills, stores and online necessary to allow retail to thrive,” said Helen Dickinson, the BRC’s chief executive, in a statement this week.