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ONS: Retail Sales Slump In December

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The Office for National Statistics has reported on December's retail sales, covering the five-week period 24 November 2019 to 28 December 2019.

Key Points:

  • In the three months to December 2019, the quantity bought in retail sales decreased by 1.0% when compared with the previous three months.

  • All sectors except household goods stores and fuel saw a decline in the quantity bought for the three-month on three-month movement; driven mainly by non-food stores at negative 1.0%.

  • The quantity bought in December 2019 fell by 0.6% when compared with the previous month; the fifth consecutive month of no growth.

  • The quantity bought in food stores fell by 1.3% for the monthly growth rate, which was the largest fall since December 2016, also at 1.3%.

  • Comparing the three months to December 2019 against the same three months a year ago, growth in the quantity bought increased by 1.6% in December 2019, despite a strong decline of 2.2% for department stores.

Online Sales

  • Online sales as a proportion of all retailing was 19.0% in December 2019, compared with the 18.6% reported in November 2019.  

  • Online spending increased in December 2019 at 1.6% when compared with November 2019, with strong growth in department stores at 15.5% and household goods stores at 13.7%.

  • Internet sales increased by 5.6% in December 2019, when compared with December 2018. Household goods stores reported strong growth at 23.2%, while food stores reported the largest fall on record of negative 6.6%. This followed a period of relative strength in the sector after recovering from consecutive falls of negative 4.9% and 6.1% in May and June of 2019.

Commenting on the Office of National Statistics Retail sales figures for December 2019, Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said:

“December trading was always going to be a challenge for retailers, given the late timing and continued interest in Black Friday bringing forward sales to November. The wider political distractions and the wet weather, including Storm Elsa, in the critical run up to Christmas day also had an impact. This is consistent with PwC’s own twelve Christmas predictions which showed that consumers expected to spend a little less this year.

“However, while the headline decline in retail sales reported by the ONS today seems to confirm earlier reports that 2019 has been the worst year for retail in a quarter of a century, there were some green shoots suggesting that trading could have been worse.

“Adjusting for Black Friday, the ONS reported that year-on-year retail sales grew by just over 1%, which is better than previous surveys have suggested. The ONS included a broader range of retailers in their calculations, and in particular independents and smaller chains, which I think did better than expected. Retailers that best understand local customers and can provide truly personalised service can still attract consumers to Britain’s high streets.”

Source : ONS and PWC

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17 January 2020

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Thank you for the excellent presentation that you gave at Woodbury Park on Thursday morning. It was very interesting and thought-provoking for our Retail members. The feedback has been excellent.

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