Worst September retail sales on record

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Worst September retail sales on record
(Image: PA)
// Sales decreased by 1.3% in September, the worst September since BRC records began in 1995
// Sales decreased by 1.7% on a Like-for-like basis from September 2018, when they had decreased 0.2% from the preceding year
// The BRC said the “spectre” of a potential no-deal Brexit is weighing on consumers’ purchasing decisions

British retailers have endured their worst September month in more than 20 years amid the political “gridlock” surrounding Brexit, according to an index.

With the “spectre” of a potential no-deal Brexit weighing on consumers’ purchasing decisions, it was the worst September since records started in 1995, according to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.

Total retail sales fell by 1.3 per cent year-on-year in September, compared with a 0.7 per cent annual increase in September 2018.

This was not only the worst since BRC’s records started in 1995, but also below the three-month average decline of 0.4 per cent and the 12-month average growth of 0.2 per cent – a new record low.


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On a like-for-like basis, UK retail sales decreased by 1.7 per cent compared to September 2018, when like-for-like sales had fallen by 0.2 per cent from the preceding year.

The BRC said this was worse than both the three-month and 12-month averages of -0.8 per cent and -0.4 per cent respectively, and the lowest 12-month average since August 2009.

Over the three month period to September, in-store sales of non-food items declined 3.2 per cent on both a total and like-for-like basis – worse than the 12-month total average decline of 2.9 per cent.

While online sales of non-food products grew 0.7 per cent in September, this was the worst ever recorded and is a contrast to the growth of 5.4 per cent in September 2018.

It’s also well below the three-month and 12-month average growths of 2.1 per cent and 3.8 per cent respectively.

Overall non-food retail sales in that same three-month period decreased by 1.7 per cent on both a like-for-like and total basis, below the 12-month total average decrease of one per cent – which is a new record low.

Meanwhile, food sales for the three months to September increased 0.3 per cent on a like-for-like basis and 1.2 per cent on a total basis – but this was again below the 12-month total average growth of 1.7 per cent.

“With the spectre of a no-deal weighing increasingly on consumer purchasing decisions, it is no surprise that sales growth has once again fallen into the red,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.

“Many consumers held off from non-essential purchases, or shopped around for the bigger discounts, while the new autumn clothing ranges suffered from the warmer September weather.”

She said the “ongoing political gridlock surrounding Brexit is harming both consumers and retailers”.

She added: “Clarity is needed over our future trading relationship with our closest neighbours and it is vitally important that Britain does not leave the EU without a deal.”

KPMG head of UK retail Paul Martin said: “Worryingly, even online sales moved closer to stalling.”

He continued: “Consumers are choosing to focus on the essentials, with food one of the few categories delivering growth.

“We will likely experience increased promotional activity to clear surplus stock, which doesn’t bear well for retailers desperately trying to make up for lost ground after several difficult months.

“Retailers’ focus needs to be on cost and efficiency, with only the leanest and most efficient operations coping with this extreme test of endurance. October, and the ramping-up of Brexit plans, will clearly be a real test for the industry as a whole.”

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