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Published on January 12th, 2021 | by The GC Team

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2020: UK retail’s worst year on record

2020 proved to be the worst year on record for retail sales growth with bricks & mortar non-food stores recording sales down by a quarter compared with 2019.

According to the BRC/KPMG retail sales monitor, total sales declined 0.3% on the previous year, with 5.4% growth in the food sector not enough to offset a 5.0% fall in non-food.

2020 was scarred by the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent closure of non-essential stores, and Christmas offered little respite for retailers as many shops were forced to shut during the peak trading period.

December sales increased 1.8% on a total basis compared to December 2019, while like-for-like sales (excluding temporarily closed stores) rose 4.8%.

Paul Martin, UK Head of Retail at KPMG, said: “Further restrictions and the closure of many non-essential shops resulted in a dismal December performance for those retailers on the high street and conditions will continue to be challenging as we enter another national lockdown.”

Martin commented on the “big swings” in the types of products purchased and the channels used for shopping, with much of the growth taking place online where nearly half of all non-food purchases were made.

The sector increased by 44.8% online during the month, against growth of 6.7% in December 2019.

Throughout 2020, online non-food sales rose 36.2% compared with the previous year, with the penetration rate rising to 47.8%.

“Looking ahead,” said KPMG’s Paul Martin, “fortunes will be mixed, but pent-up savings and a successful vaccine rollout will help support recovery in the retail sector later in the year. Retailers will also be hoping that the reopening of high streets and shopping centres will see a return to more normal levels of footfall.”

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