Christmas was not so merry for retailers, ONS data shows

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Christmas was not so merry for retailers, ONS data shows
ONS's latest monthly retail sales figures come as the BRC recently reported that December had been a difficult month for the high street.
// Amount spent & quantity bought in final quarter fell 0.9% & 1.0% respectively compared with the previous 3 months, ONS says
// Compared to November, there was a 0.3% & 0.6% drop in amount spent & quantity bought respectively in December
// Year-on-year, both measures saw growth of 1.5% for the amount spent & 0.9% for the quantity bought

Shoppers cut down on both how much they bought and the amount they spent at the end of last year, new figures show.

In the three months to December, amount spent and quantity bought fell 0.9 per cent and one per cent respectively when compared with the previous three months, the ONS said.

On a month-by-month basis, the amount spent dropped 0.3 per cent and quantity bought was down 0.6 per cent, compared with increases of 1.5 per cent and 0.9 per cent respectively a year earlier.


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“Retail sales fell sharply in the latest three months, with almost all sectors showing a decline,” ONS head of retail sales Rhian Murphy said.

“The longer-term picture is still one of growth, although it has slowed considerably in recent months.

“December was the fifth consecutive month with no growth as food stores suffered particularly poor sales, showing the steepest fall for three years.”

The figures come as the BRC recently reported that December had been a difficult month for the high street.

Retailers have struggled to build sales, with several saying the toy and electrical markets were experiencing particularly tough conditions.

The worst-performing sector was textiles, clothing and footwear, with quantity bought down two per cent, followed closely by department stores and food shops, down 1.8 per cent in December compared with a month earlier.

Online sales continued to outperform the high street, but there was a significant slowdown, with growth of just 1.6 per cent in December compared with the previous month.

There was a heavy 4.2 percent fall in online food orders compared with November – contributing to a 6.6 per cent drop year on year.

Responding to the latest ONS retail sales index, BRC head of retail insight Kyle Monk said: “Retail remains in the midst of a transformation driven by new technologies and changing consumer behaviour.

“Online purchases continue to rise, driven by Black Friday falling later in the year, giving an advantage to those retailers with a mature digital offering.

“The quantity of goods bought in December fell 0.6 per cent, as consumers continued to demonstrate more value-driven and conscientious spending habits.

“The government’s review of business rates could not come at a more important time.

“Already retail, which accounts for five per cent of the economy, pays 25 per cent of the business rates burden, holding back investment in staff, and the online and in-store offering for consumers.

“In the short term, the Government should scrap downwards transitional relief which takes £1.3 billion from retailers, using most of it to subsidise other sectors.”

with PA Wires

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