Written by: Keith Tully
Published: 19th December 2019
Retail sales across the country fell notably during November as consumers generally kept a tight rein on their spending in the run up to Christmas.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), retail sales fell on a monthly basis by 0.6 per cent, which represents the fourth consecutive month in which sales have failed to grow.
However, the data only reflects activity up to November 23rd and, therefore, doesn’t include sales recorded on Black Friday, which is now an important date in the calendar for many online and high street retailers.
The ONS attempted to adjust for a potential sales boost brought about by Black Friday discounting but on the whole the picture for retailers across sectors remains gloomy as 2019 draws to an end.
Hopes are that the recent general election result will bring some stability to the economic outlook for the UK and that consumers might decide to start spending more freely in the knowledge that a No Deal Brexit is no longer likely at least in the first half of 2020.
Looking at the latest ONS data on an annual basis, retail sales grew 0.8 per cent year-on-year (excluding fuel sales) in November, which represents the weakest annual growth rate recorded since October 2017.
Thomas Pugh from the consultancy Capital Economics has described the November data as “pretty concerning” and suggested that it may well be “not a very merry Christmas for retailers”.
A growing number of well known high street retailers have been struggling to stay in business or to remain profitable in recent years.
Over the course of 2019, dozens of retail businesses have fallen into administration, including the likes of Bonmarche, Forever 21, Links of London and Mothercare.
Some companies have been able to remain operational with the aid of insolvency procedures such as pre-pack administrations or Company Voluntary Arrangements (CVAs) but others have ceased trading and disappeared entirely from UK high streets.
Across the retail sector, tens of thousands of people from all parts of the UK have lost their jobs in recent quarters.