Brexit uncertainty adversely affects March retail sales

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March retail sales
// Retail sales slowed down in March due to Brexit uncertainty
// BRC-KPMG found UK sales decreased 0.5% in March

UK retail sales in March have once again been negatively impacted by the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

Sales decreased by 0.5 per cent last month, against an increase of 2.3 per cent in the same period last year, according to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.

UK retail sales decreased by 1.1 per cent on a like-for-like basis from March 2018, when they had increased 1.4 per cent from the preceding year.

Meanwhile, over the three months to March, in-store sales of non-food items declined 1.5 per cent on a total basis and 1.7 per cent on a like-for-like basis.

In the same period, food sales increased 0.2 per cent on a like-for-like basis and 1.3 per cent on a total basis.

Over the three months to March, non-food retail sales in the UK remained flat on a like-for-like basis and increased 0.1 per cent on a total basis.

Moreover, online sales of non-food products grew three per cent in March, against a growth of 7.9 per cent in March 2018.

“Retail sales slowed in March, even when the Easter distortions were accounted for, as greater uncertainty caused people to hold off from splashing out,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson.

“While jewellery, beauty products and clothing purchases were all up to indulge on Mother’s Day, shoppers were generally cautious not to overspend, particularly on larger items.

“Brexit continues to feed the uncertainty among consumers. For the sake of everyone, MPs must rally behind a plan of action that avoids no deal – and quickly – or it will be ordinary families who suffer as a result of higher prices and less choice on the shelves.”

KPMG retail director UK Sue Richardson said: “March marked a truly disappointing end to the first quarter of 2019 for retailers.

“Not only did total sales fall 0.5 per cent compared to the same month last year, but no further clarity around Brexit came to light, and shoppers continue to waiver.

“Retailers will be hoping for an end to this sustained uncertainty – it’s clearly not good for business – but times have already well and truly changed, and agility remains the best form of defence.”

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