The British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) has warned that more high street shops could close in 2024 following figures revealing the sharp retail sales fall at the end of last year.
Official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released today showed that sales volumes fell by 3.2% in December and were the sharpest drop since the UK was in a Covid lockdown.
The figures show that retail sales volumes are estimated to have fallen by 3.2 per cent in December 2023, from a rise of 1.4 per cent in November 2023 (revised up from an increase of 1.3 per cent); December’s decrease was the largest monthly fall since January 2021, when coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions affected sales.
Looking at the quarterly picture, sales volumes fell by 0.9 per cent in the three months to December 2023 when compared with the previous three months. Non-food store sales volumes fell by 3.9 per cent in December 2023, following a 2.7 per cent increase in November 2023 when earlier Black Friday sales, and wider discounting, increased sales.
Reacting on the figures, Andrew Goodacre, CEO of Bira said, “The December figures will not surprise indie retailers up and down the country. The festive period for many was flat with heavy discounting by the large retailers throughout November and December, the retail sector (for non food items) competed for the lower consumer spend.
“Consumer confidence has been low all year and these figures round off a very difficult year for retailers. In 2024 we need to see financial stability, interest rates falling and a plan for economic growth.
“Consumer confidence needs to be improved or we will see many more high street closures.”