// Total retail sales increased by 0.4% in January, compared to 2.2% uplift last year, says BRC-KPMG
// On a like-for-like basis, sales were flat with 0% change year-on-year
// Meanwhile, 42% of people now upbeat about the UK’s economic prospects, according to Barclaycard
Thrifty shopping habits and environmental consciousness are driving people towards being more selective about their purchases, according to two retail sector reports for January.
Total retail sales increased by 0.4 per cent annually in January, compared with a 2.2 per cent uplift in January 2019, the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor said.
On a like-for-like basis, sales were flat with zero per cent change year-on-year.
- Retail sales flatline in January (CBI)
- The health of UK retail was at an all-time low in 2019 (Ipsos/KPMG)
- 2019 was UK retail’s worst year ever (BRC/KPMG)
“Recent political uncertainty and a decade of austerity appear to have ingrained a more thrifty approach to shopping among consumers,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.
“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.”
KPMG head of retail Paul Martin said: “January is usually a quieter month for retail, and although static sales might not appear triumphant, at least it is no further deterioration.
“Consumer confidence has started to return post-General Election, but we have not experienced any major leaps for the sector yet.
“We have to remember, this semi-positive performance will also be the result of aggressive discounts and consumers’ preoccupation with bagging a bargain. That’s not always good news when looking at bottom-lines.”
Martin added that health-focused spending categories did benefit from shoppers aiming to start the year with good intentions.
This was echoed by a separate report from Barclaycard, which said pharmacy, health and beauty stores experienced annual spending growth of 5.9 per cent as consumers pursued healthier lifestyles at the start of the new year.
The report also also found that people are feeling more confident, with 42 per cent of people now upbeat about the UK’s economic prospects, the most positive figure Barclaycard has seen since September 2016.
Three quarters also feel confident about their household finances, the highest level seen since February 2019.
However, looking ahead, just over half believe the pace of economic growth could decline in the next few months.
Fifty-six per cent also said they had become more conscious of their personal impact on the environment and therefore intend to change their behaviour.
A third of shoppers plan to buy fewer plastic goods.
Barclaycard said a focus on maximising value continues to be evident, with spending at discount stores up 9.5 per cent annually in January.
“Consumer spending has had a boost in January, and we’ve also seen confidence in the economy grow,” Barclaycard director Esme Harwood said.
Friends of the Earth campaigner Julian Kirby said: “Environmental concerns are rightly high on the public agenda, so it’s really encouraging to see shoppers choosing more sustainable options.
“Companies must respond by putting the environment at the core of their businesses, such as cutting down on climate-wrecking emissions, doing away with unnecessary packaging and ensuring products are built to last and can be re-used, rather than clogging up our creaking waste and recycling system.
“Ministers must act too, by setting a target to radically reduce plastic pollution and waste in landmark legislation now passing through parliament.”
with PA Wires