Warning of more closures

Shops see sales plummet at fastest rate in 24 years

empty shops in Glasgow

Retailers want action on business rates (pic: Terry Murden)


Britain’s retailers say more store closures can be expected after new figures for last month showed the biggest drop in sales i almost a quarter of a century.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said sales fell 2.7% in May compared to April – the weakest performance since January 1995 and by 3% of May 2018 – the steepest drop since December 2008.

Food sales dropped for the first time since June 2016, and there were also falls in sales of clothing, footwear and outdoor goods compared with a month earlier. The figures, contained in the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, were published just before Sir Philip Green meets creditors to consider a restructuring deal for his Top Shop-to-Burtons Arcadia Group.

Helen Dickinson, the BRC’s chief executive, said: “With the biggest decline in retail sales on record, the risk of further job losses and store closures will only increase.

“While May 2018 offered almost unbroken sunshine, topped off by the run up to the World Cup and the marriage of Meghan and Harry, May 2019 delivered political and economic uncertainty. Food sales dropped for the first time since June 2016, with further declines in clothing, footwear and outdoor goods.”

Ms Dickinson called on politicians to support the reinvention of the high streets, where the number of shops lying empty increased by 7,500 last year.

“Business rates remain a barrier, preventing many retailers from investing in their physical space,” she said. “We have a broken tax system, which sees retailers paying vast sums of money regardless of whether they make a penny at the till, and yet the government is failing to act. The legislation is falling behind the technological revolution.”

The report said almost a third of non-food sales were now taking place online.

The Scottish Retail Consortium is among a number of trade groups urging the Scottish government to bring Scotland’s large business rates supplement into line with England.

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