2019 was the first year to show an overall decline in retail sales

BRC reports drop in UK retail sales

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has released figures covering the five weeks from 25th August to 28th September 2019.

On a total basis, sales decreased by 1.3% in September, against an increase of 0.7% in September 2018. This is below the three-month average decline of 0.4% and the 12-month average growth of 0.2%, a new record low.

It is also the worst September since its records began in 1995, the BRC has said.

In September, UK retail sales decreased by 1.7% on a like-for-like basis from September 2018, when they had decreased 0.2% from the preceding year. This is worse than both the three-month and 12-month averages of -0.8% and -0.4% respectively. This is the lowest 12-month average since August 2009.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive, British Retail Consortium, said: “With the spectre of a no-deal weighing increasingly on consumer purchasing decisions, it is no surprise that sales growth has once again fallen into the red. Many consumers held off from non-essential purchases, or shopped around for the bigger discounts, while the new autumn clothing ranges suffered from the warmer September weather.

“The longer-term prospect continues to be bleak, with the 12-month average once again plumbing new depths at a mere 0.2%. Online non-food sales growth was the lowest on record, though still compared favourably to the decline in growth at physical stores.

“With four months of negative sales growth since March, the ongoing political gridlock surrounding Brexit is harming both consumers and retailers. Clarity is needed over our future trading relationship with our closest neighbours, and it is vitally important that Britain does not leave the EU without a deal.”

Paul Martin, UK head of retail, KPMG, said: “Unsurprisingly September proved to be another difficult month for retailers, with like-for-like sales declining by 1.7% compared to last year. Worryingly, even online sales moved closer to stalling, with growth of non-food online sales only 0.7%.

“Ongoing Brexit uncertainty is clearly having a material impact on the consumer psyche, with all but one non-food category being in decline in September. Consumers are choosing to focus on the essentials, with food one of the few categories delivering growth.

“We will likely experience increased promotional activity to clear surplus stock, which doesn’t bear well for retailers desperately trying to make up for lost ground after several difficult months.

|Retailers’ focus needs to be on cost and efficiency with only the leanest and most efficient operations coping with this extreme test of endurance. October, and the ramping up of Brexit plans, will clearly be a real test for the industry as a whole.”

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