2019 was the “worst year on record for retail”, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has said.
Total sales for 2019 decreased by 0.1%, compared with 1.2% growth in 2018, according to the BRC’s figures.
In December, sales increased by 1.9% on a total basis, against a flat 0.0% in December 2018. Taking November and December together to iron out the Black Friday distortions, total sales declined 0.9% compared with the same period in 2018.
Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive, BRC, said: “2019 was the worst year on record and the first year to show an overall decline in retail sales. This was also reflected in the CVAs, shop closures and job losses that the industry suffered in 2019.
“Twice the UK faced the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, as well as political instability that concluded in a December General Election – further weakening demand for the festive period. The industry continues to transform in response to the changing technologies and shopping habits.
“Black Friday overtook Christmas as the biggest shopping week of the year for non-food items. Retailers also faced challenges as consumers became both more cautious and more conscientious as they went about their Christmas shopping.
“Looking forward, the public’s confidence in Britain’s trade negotiations will have a big impact on spending over the coming year. There are many ongoing challenges for retailers: to drive up productivity, continue to raise wages, improve recyclability of products and cut waste.
“However, this takes resources, so 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% of all business rates, while accounting for 5% of the economy.”