Total retail sales decreased by 0.1% in 2019, compared with the 1.2% increase recorded in 2018, making it the “worst year on record” for retail according to the BRC.
Helen Dickinson, CEO of the BRC, said this was reflected in the CVAs, shop closures and job losses that the industry suffered in 2019, as well as “political instability” that concluded in a December General Election – resulting in “weakened” demand over the festive period.
Looking at the five week period ended 28 December 2019, sales increased 1.9% during the month on a total basis, against a flat 0% in December 2018. The three-month and 12-month averages were -0.4% and -0.1% respectively.
However, the BRC said when taking November and December together to “iron out the Black Friday distortions”, total sales actually declined by 0.9% compared with the same period in 2018.
Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, said consumers “clearly favoured logging on to walking in”, as online sales were up 12.8% in December.
Dickinson 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.”
She added: “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.”