ONS Sales Decline Reflects 'Transformation' Of UK Retail Sector, Says BRC

By Steve Wynne-Jones
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ONS Sales Decline Reflects 'Transformation' Of UK Retail Sector, Says BRC

The British Retail Consortium has said that the latest UK retail sales figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) indicate the level to which retail is in 'the midst of a transformation driven by new technologies and changing consumer behaviour'.

The quantity of goods bought in UK retailers in December fell by 0.6% compared to the previous month, according to the latest ONS figures, while the quantity sold in food stores was down 1.3% for the month, the largest fall since December 2016.

In the three months leading up to December 2019, the quantity bought in retail decreased by 1.0% compared to the prior three months, the data showed.

'Conscientious Behaviour'

According to the Kyle Monk, head of retail insight and analytics, at the British Retail Consortium, this reflects more "value driven and conscientious" shopping behaviour.

"Online purchases continue to rise, driven by Black Friday falling later in the year, giving an advantage to those retailers with a mature digital offering," he said.


Monk also reiterated that the UK government's planned review of business rates "could not come at a more important time", adding that "retail, which accounts for 5% of the economy, pays 25% of the business rates burden, holding back investment in staff, and the online and instore offering for consumers".

'Bleak Picture'

Also commenting on the ONS data for December, Richard Lim, CEO of Retail Economics said that the numbers "paint a pretty bleak picture for Christmas trading", especially for the food sector.

"It’s becoming increasingly clear that shoppers are happily shying away from the main grocers in favour of the discounters as they prioritise value over range," he said.

“What’s more, the backdrop of healthier household finances has not benefited the retail industry as consumers remain very cautious in their discretionary spending. Shoppers’ propensity to spend remained weak as uncertainty around Brexit and a weaker economy has severely undermined their confidence."


'Grimly Fitting'

Echoing his point, David Jinks, the head of consumer research at courier firm ParcelHero, said that the December figures were a "grimly fitting finale" to what has been a challenging year for the British retail sector.

"Spending was down 0.3% and the amount we bought down 0.6% against November," he said. "The one bright point was a strong performance for many retailers’ web sites. Online spending was up 1.6% against November, with department stores web sales booming: up a heartening 15.5% against November.

"Footfall may be falling, but many consumers still prefer to buy more valuable gifts from familiar stores – even if they chose to do so online."

© 2020 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Dayeeta Das. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: The European Supermarket Magazine.

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