Worst Christmas for retailers in a decade, says BRC

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There were a number of discounts in stores in the run-up to Christmas

Retail sales were flat in December, as UK businesses experienced their worst Christmas in a decade, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Total retail sales showed 0% year-on-year growth during the month, the worst December performance since 2008.

The BRC said price cuts appeared not to have been enough to encourage shoppers.

A separate report from Barclaycard said consumer spending grew 1.8% year-on-year in December, the lowest rate of growth seen since March 2016.

Esme Harwood, director at Barclaycard, said: “Growth in consumer spending dropped to its lowest level since 2016 and represents a decline in real terms.”

She added that consumers “remain cautious amidst ongoing economic uncertainty”.

‘Mounting costs’

Meanwhile, BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “Squeezed consumers chose not to splash out this Christmas, with retail sales growth stalling for the first time in 28 months.

“The worst December sales performance in 10 years means a challenging start to 2019 for retailers, with business rates set to rise once again this year, and the threat of a no-deal Brexit looming ever larger.”

The BRC said that on a like-for-like basis, UK retail sales decreased by 0.7% from December 2017.

Ms Dickinson said the retail landscape was “changing dramatically” in the UK, while the trading environment remained tough.

She added: “Retailers are facing up to this challenge, but are having to wrestle with mounting costs from a succession of government policies – from the apprenticeship levy, to higher wage costs, to rising business rates.”

And Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, said retail sales had stagnated despite some retailers’ best efforts to generate sales through price cuts.

“Growth in food did provide a glimmer of hope, being among the few categories to notice an uptick,” he added.

“However, the continued contrast in performance between the High Street and online remained evident in December – albeit 2018 did also see a continued slowdown in online retail sales.”

Worst Christmas for retailers in a decade, says BRC

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