Written by: Keith Tully
Published: 10th January 2020
Retail businesses across the country suffered their worst year on record in 2019, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
Total sales across the sector for the entire 12-month period fell by 0.1 per cent, which compares unfavourably with the 1.2 per cent growth recorded across 2018.
The BRC describes last year’s sales performance as being the worst on record for UK retailers on the basis that sales have never previously been tracked in negative territory.
Factors cited as contributing to the difficulties of retailers last year were the lack of clarity around Brexit and the UK’s position in the EU, and the general election, which is believed to have dampened consumer spending in the run up to Christmas.
Consumers were also said to have been “both more cautious and more conscientious” as they went about their Christmas shopping last year.
The BRC has noted as well that retailers are in the process of transforming their operations in response to changing technological and shopping-related habits among consumers from all parts of the country.
The difficulties being seen within the retail sector have been reflected in job losses, shop closures and instances of insolvency, all of which were recorded in significant numbers over the course of last year.
Interestingly, the BRC’s latest figures suggest that Black Friday surpassed Christmas last year to become the biggest week of the year for retailers in terms of non-food sales.
Looking ahead to the rest of 2020, Helen Dickinson, the BRC’s chief executive, has said that retailers face an array of challenges and must work to improve their productivity wherever possible.
However, Ms Dickinson says that businesses within the industry will need support in a variety of important ways from the newly established government in Westminster.
“It is essential the new government makes good on its promise to review, and then reform the broken business rates system which sees retail pay 25 per cent of all business rates, while accounting for 5 per cent of the economy,” she said in a statement.
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