Retail sales in the UK remained flat in the four weeks to 24 August 2019, touching a new 12-month average low of 0.4%, according to the latest BRC–KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.
Like-for-like sales declined by 0.5% in the period, compared to data from August 2018.
Chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, Helen Dickinson OBE, commented, "Greater economic and political uncertainty has driven down consumer demand. While the summer weather gave a small boost to food sales, this was cancelled out by a drop in non-food sales."
UK head of retail at KPMG, Paul Martin, added, "August proved to be yet another incredibly disappointing month for retail.
"It’s clear that for much of the retail market, efforts are being focussed on preservation, not growth, in this adverse and uncertain climate."
In the three months to August, in-store sales of non-food items declined 3.0% on a total and like-for-like basis; a new low compared to the 12-month total average decline of 2.6%.
Food sales decreased by 0.3% on a like-for-like basis and increased by 0.5% on a total basis during the period.
Commenting on the performance of the food and drinks sector, IGD chief executive Susan Barratt, said, "Food and grocery sales moved back into positive territory in August with year-on-year growth, thanks considerably to the approaching Bank Holiday heatwave.
"As August progressed, the October Brexit deadline received increasing attention, but only 3% of shoppers say they’ve begun to build stocks for this purpose: not enough to show through in the total sector sales."
Non-food retail sales in the three months to August decreased by 1.2% on a like-for-like and total basis, again below the 12-month total average decrease of 0.7%.
The online sales of non-food products grew 2.2% during in August, against a growth of 7.5% in the same period in 2018.
"As has been the case for some time now, online sales outperformed the high street, but with growth as low as 2.2%, it’s clear that even this channel has slowed down drastically," Martin added.
Martin continued, "With a budgetary Spending Review, the Brexit crunch point looming and potentially a general election on the cards, it’s clear that the only thing that is certain in the coming months is further uncertainty.
"It’s vital that retailers insulate themselves for every eventuality and have rigorous contingency plans in place."
Dickinson has urged the government to take action to avoid further store closures and job losses on the UK high street.
"Last month, fifty retail CEOs wrote to the Chancellor demanding he fix the broken business rates system, allowing businesses to fund vital investment during this unprecedented period of transformation," she said.
© 2019 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.