UK retailers suffered the worst Christmas trading period for a decade, new figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG have revealed.
Trading over the five weeks from 25 November to 29 December was flat in 2018 compared to a 1.4% rise the previous year. Retail sales growth stalled for the first time in 28 months.
On a like-for-like basis UK retail sales decreased by 0.7% in December compared to the same month in 2017, when they had increased 0.6% from the preceding year.
Over the three months to December, in-store sales of non-food items declined 2.8% on a total basis and 3.9% on a like-for-like basis. This is below the 12-month total average decline of 2.5%. The decline of the month was the worst since April in both total and like-for-like terms.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC said that the poor trading was coming at a time when retailers faced mounting costs and uncertainty.
She said: “Squeezed consumers chose not to splash out this Christmas. The worst December sales performance in ten years means a challenging start to 2019 for retailers, with business rates set to rise once again this year, and the threat of a no-deal Brexit looming ever larger.
Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG said: “Retailers experienced little festive cheer this year, with total sales in December delivering zero growth on last year. This comes despite some retailers desperately attempting to generate sales through slashed pricing, which has seemingly not been enough to encourage shoppers.”