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Industry News

Published on January 9th, 2020 | by The GC Team

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“Worst year on record for retail,” says BRC

Figures released today by the British Retail Consortium show 2019 to have been the worst year on record for retail with total sales for the twelve months down by 0.1%, compared with 1.2% growth in 2018.

Figures for December were positively skewed by the late timing of Black Friday, but taking November and December together to iron out the Black Friday distortions, total sales declined 0.9% compared with the same period in 2018.

Paul Kirkland, Director of Retail & Hospitality at Fujitsu UK, said: “It shouldn’t come as a surprise to retailers that total sales fell in 2019; from declining footfall as online competitors grow their market share, to the continued impact of the UK’s political and economic uncertainty, it was a particularly difficult consumer environment to navigate.”

Michael Schirrmacher, MD at Bloomreach, commented: “The latest retail figures released today emphasise the mounting challenges retailers are facing on our high street. Consumer confidence in brick and mortar stores is falling, and in order to succeed, retailers need a strong strategy in place where both online and physical retail complement one another.”

Paul Martin, UK Head of Retail at KPMG, said consumers clearly favoured “logging on to walking in”. Figures showed the online penetration rate for non-food items increased from 31.2% in December 2018 to 34.5% in December 2019.  

Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, 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.

“Retailers also faced challenges as consumers became both more cautious and more conscientious as they went about their Christmas shopping.    

“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.”

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