The UK retail industry’s leading body The British Retail Consortium (BRC) revealed that total sales fell 0.1%, the first annual sales drop since 1995. The BRC reported that sales in the run up to Christmas were particularly weak, falling 0.9%.
Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme on Radio 4, Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, said: "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.
“Retailers also faced challenges as consumers became both more cautious and more conscientious as they went about their Christmas shopping.”
This ‘conscientious’ approach meant that in the run up to Christmas consumers were questioning the need for owning more ‘stuff’, and Dickinson said they were more likely to re-use, fix, and repair.
This environmentally aware mentality of the consumer body has presented an extra challenge to manufacturers, and we can expect this to have a significant impact on product development from now on.
However, despite reporting gloomy sales figures, Dickinson admitted that this does not represent the fullest picture of the retail environment. The BRC’s survey did not include Amazon, which could account for some 20% of online sales. Dickinson went on to say: “While it is not 100% of retailers in the country, some businesses that aren’t included will also be compensated by those that have gone bust.”
Dickinson concluded: “Looking forward, the public’s confidence in Britain’s trade negotiations will have a big impact on spending over the coming year.
“There are many ongoing challenges for retailers: to drive up productivity, continue to raise wages, improve recyclability of products and cut waste.”