UK retail sales are flat for the beginning of 2020

The UK economy continues to struggle to build momentum as the country battles the uncertainty of what BREXIT will actually look like.

The British Retail Consortium released sales metrics covering the first five weeks of 2020 and relevant comparative data.

  • On a Total basis, sales increased by 0.4% in January, against an increase of 2.2% in January 2019. This is above both the 3-month and 12-month average declines of 0.4% and 0.2% respectively. The 12-month average hit a new record low since our records began in 1995.
  • In January, UK retail sales were flat on a like-for-like basis from January 2019, when they had increased 1.8% from the preceding year.
  • Over the three months to January, Food sales decreased 0.1% on a like-for-like basis and increased 0.6% on a Total basis. This is below the 12-month Total average growth of 1.2%, the lowest since February 2017.
  • Over the three-months to January, Non-Food retail sales in the UK decreased by 1.5% on a like-for-like and 1.3% on a Total basis. This is in line with the 12-month Total average. For the month of January, Non-Food was in slight growth year-on-year.
  • Over the three months to January, In-store sales of Non-Food items declined 3.0% on a Total and 3.3% on a like-for-like basis. This is slightly better than the 12-month Total average decline of 3.1%.
  • Online Non-Food sales increased by 2.5% in January, against a growth of 5.4% in January 2019. This is lower than the 3m and 12m averages of 2.6% and 3.1% respectively.
  • Non-Food Online penetration rate increased from 29.5% in January 2019 to 30.6%.

“January saw a return to growth, however recent political uncertainty and a decade of austerity appear to have ingrained a more thrifty approach to shopping among consumers. Furthermore, as sustainability continues to rise up the agenda, many customers are switching to more environmentally friendly products or simply choosing to buy less. These effects are not just limited to the high street as growth in online purchases also slowed.”


Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive | British Retail Consortium

While the slide may be slowing, UK consumer confidence has a long way to go as the details of post BREXIT trade agreements are still very much up in the air.

Online retailers are in better shape than other retailers, and a recent survey found that many are optimistic. But the first set of 2020 BRC numbers are a bit of a reality check, and UK retailers should brace for at least another challenging year until consumer confidence returns.

What do you think about the UK economy, and how long will it take for it to recover from BREXIT?

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