This is according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which released its BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor report earlier this week (February 11th).

The analysis showed total retail sales had risen by 0.4 per cent between January 2019 and January 2020. On a like-to-like basis, there was a zero per cent change in sales over the 12-month period.

While this is less positive than the annual figures for January 2019, which revealed a 2.2 per cent increase in total sales, it is still above both the three-month and 12-month average figures. These revealed 0.4 per cent and 0.2 per cent declines respectively.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, stated this is likely to be the result of both the recent political uncertainty surrounding Brexit, as well as a decade of austerity, which has encouraged consumers to be thriftier when it comes to shopping.

“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,” Ms Dickinson commented.


The report showed in the three months leading to January 2020, food sales dropped by 0.1 per cent on a like-for-like basis, despite increasing by 0.6 per cent on a total basis, thanks to shoppers buying lots of produce in the lead-up to Christmas.

Non-food retail sales in the quarter leading to January this year also declined by 1.5 per cent compared with 2019’s figures. However, it improved slightly in January in comparison with last year.

In-store sales of non-food items dropped by three per cent on a total basis during the three months to January and by 3.3 per cent year-on-year. Despite this not looking good for retail companies, it actually represents total average decline over the whole year, which was 3.1 per cent.

UK head of retail at KPMG Paul Martin reassures shop owners about these figures, saying: “January is usually a quieter month for retail”. He added: “Although static sales might not appear triumphant, at least it is no further deterioration.”

Mr Martin also noted that consumer confidence is just beginning to improve following the December 2019 election. The vote revealed the Conservatives gained 47 seats, with 13,966,451 votes, while opposition party Labour lost 59 seats in parliament and only gained 10,295,912 votes.

This meant leader of the Conservatives Boris Johnson remained as Prime Minister and was able to carry on with his Brexit plans. Indeed, Britain officially left the European Union (EU) last month, which may at least help to end the period of political instability that has affected the country’s ecommerce industry.

“With Brexit ‘technically’ behind us, retailers will be hoping that consumers feel confident enough to re-engage,” Mr Martin commented, adding: “But much remains unknown as we work towards defining our future relationship with the EU.”

Retailers have to discover how Brexit will impact their industry, while also looking out for any affect it might have on consumer behaviour.

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