Falling sales

High street shops suffer ‘worst year on record’


Empty units scar Britain’s high streets (pic: Terry Murden)

British retailers suffered their worst year on record as shoppers eased back on spending and more shops went bust.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said total sales in 2019 fell 0.1%, marking the first annual sales decline since 1995, compared with 1.2% growth in 2018.

Sales in November and December were particularly weak, falling 0.9%, the BRC said.

A report from Barclaycard, which processes nearly half of all UK debit and credit transactions, said that consumer spending growth had declined if inflation was taken into account.

The data came as John Lewis announced that Paula Nickolds, managing director will be leaving the Partnership next month.

Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the BRC, 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.”

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.  

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