UK hit by ‘biggest decline on retail sales on record’

07/06/2019

UK retail sales in May have seen “the biggest decline on record”, dropping 2.7% in May 2019, according to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor.

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Like-for-like sales decreased by three per cent compared to the same period last year, when they had increased by 2.8 per cent from the preceding year – making it the steepest like-for-like decline since December 2008.

Meanwhile, non-food item sales have declined by 2.7 per cent on both a total and like-for-like basis, while non-food retail sales decreased by 1.1 per cent both on a like-for-like and on a total basis.

Food sales increased by 0.8 per cent on a like-for-like basis and 1.9 per cent on a total basis.

Furthermore, online sales of non-food products grew just 1.5 per cent, which is against a growth of 11.5 per cent in May last year.

Ecommerce penetration rates increased to 30.3 per cent, up from 28.2 per cent in May 2018.

“With the biggest decline in retail sales on record, the risk of further job losses and store closures will only increase,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said. “May 2019 delivered political and economic uncertainty. Food sales dropped for the first time since June 2016, with further declines in clothing, footwear and outdoor goods. With retail conditions the toughest they have been for a decade, politicians must act to support the successful reinvention of our high streets and local communities.

“Business rates remain a barrier, preventing many retailers from investing in their physical space. We have a broken tax system, which sees retailers paying vast sums of money regardless of whether they make a penny at the till, and yet the government is failing to act. The legislation is falling behind the technological revolution.”

Commenting on this, Michael Schirrmacher ,Managing Director UK at Bloomreach discussed why mastering the online experience can ultimately be the difference between whether a business prospers or falters amid this difficult trading climate that persists.

“With the biggest decline in retail sales on record there is no denying that this is an extremely volatile time for many retailers,” Schirrmacher said. “With online sales still performing better than in-store sales, many retailers will be looking to fine-tune their digital experience to improve customer confidence and increase conversion.

“Undoubtably, the digital imprint of many retailers is varied and diverse with much of the focus on high-traffic pages. Normally these boil down to the homepage, search results and category pages. Yet many retailers may be missing the mark around what is truly important to the end-consumer – a fully personalised experience. Importantly, incorporating features such as fool-proof search, personalised content and personalised merchandising can make online a much more enjoyable experience for customers and a much more profitable one for retailers too.

“At a time when customer-centricity has never been more important, mastering the online experience can ultimately be the difference between whether a business prospers or falters amid this difficult trading climate that persists.”

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