Retail sales volume hits record fifth straight month of no growth

A woman walks past a sale sign on a branch of H&M on Oxford Street in London, Britain, January 17, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville

British consumers failed to increase their spending in December for a record fifth straight month, as sales volume fell by 0.6 percent from previous month, official data show.

Food stores have not escaped the brunt, according to the latest bulletin from the Office for National Statistics, with sales volume falling by 1.3 percent for the monthly growth rate, the largest fall since December 2016.

The sales were slightly up in December versus the same period last year as this year’s Black Friday fell within the reporting period.

However, both the sales value and volume fell by 0.9 percent and 1 percent respectively in the three months to December 2019 when compared with the previous three months.

Ryan Broomfield, partner and retail specialist at business advisory firm RSM, said the result was “very disappointing.”

“This is a particularly poor result given this is meant to be the Golden Quarter where seasonal sales are supposed to provide a revenue boost. In addition, these figures will not show the potential sting in the tail – the impact of consumers returning unwanted gifts after Christmas,” he added.

Industry data from market researchers Nielsen and Kantar earlier this month have also showed that the major food retailers have endured their worst Christmas since 2014 this time.

Nielsen said British supermarkets’ total sales over the four weeks to 28 December rose just 0.5 percent from last year – the lowest sales growth over the Christmas period in five years.

“This brings to an end what has been a pretty torrid 2019 for many high street operators, described by the British Retail Consortium as the worst for 25 years,” Broomfield noted.

BRC figures showed first annual overall decline in retail sales in 2019, making it the worst year on record.