Written by: Keith Tully
Published: 10th January 2019
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has revealed that retailers across the UK experienced their least successful Christmas trading period since 2008 in terms of overall sales.
Sales levels were flat across the sector during December when compared to the same period last year, according to the latest figures.
Barclaycard has revealed that consumer spending increased by 1.8 per cent during December compared with the same month in 2017 but that represents the slowest year-on-year growth recorded for any month since March 2016.
“Retailers experienced little festive cheer this year, with total sales in December delivering zero growth on last year,” commented Paul Martin, head of UK retail at KPMG.
“Growth in food did provide a glimmer of hope, being among the few categories to notice an uptick.”
Helen Dickinson, the BRC’s chief executive, said: “The worst December sales performance in 10 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.
“The retail landscape is changing dramatically in the UK, while the trading environment remains tough.”
Ms Dickinson has described retailers as having to cope with rising costs in part the result of government policies on issues including apprenticeship levies, minimum wage levels and business rates.
She also noted that retailers pay roughly 10 per cent of business taxes and 25 per cent of business rates across the country despite only accounting for around 5 per cent of overall economic activity.
According to the BRC and the analysis of KPMG, the efforts of retailers to boost their sales numbers by offering discounts in the run up to Christmas failed on the whole to have the desired effect.
The latest data also shows that the sales push associated with Black Friday failed to deliver much impetus to performance within the UK’s retail sector as like-for-like sales during November fell 0.5 per cent compared with a year earlier.
High street stores have been particularly affected by drags on sales performance in recent months but online sales too have seen their growth rates slowed significantly, according to the BRC and KPMG’s numbers.