Written by: Keith Tully
Published: 6th August 2019
British retailers have reported sales that represent the slowest growth rates for a July period since records began as consumer spending continues to be restrained right across the country.
Sales rates did return to growth of 0.3 per cent last month, after having contracted by 1.7 per cent in June and by 2.7 per cent in May, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
However, a growth rate of just 0.3 per cent across the country makes last month the worst July that British retailers have reported since official records started being kept in 1995.
Good weather often tends to support stronger sales among retailers but even record high temperatures during July weren’t enough to encourage consumers to part with their money at the rates they normally do, the BRC’s figures suggest.
“While retailers will welcome the return to growth, it has nonetheless been a punishing few months for the industry,” said Helen Dickinson, the BRC’s chief executive.
“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.”
Ms Dickinson went on to point out that the football World Cup helped to boost retailer performance during the summer months of 2018 but that source of positivity was not available either to consumers or retailers this year.
She also noted that online retailers, as well as high street operators, have been struggling for growth in recent weeks and months, with web-based non-food sales growing overall by 3.7 per cent during June, which is much slower growth than that seen during the same month of last year.
The BRC’s chief executive had strong words for the government regarding the business rates system as it affects her organisation’s members across the country.
She insists that relevant policy makers should be doing more to support retailers and coming up with a “coherent strategy” that succeeds in helping them to stay in business and to thrive.
“The government should freeze future business rates rises and fix the appeals system before embarking on a wholesale reform of this broken tax system,” she said.