High street retailers suffer worst year on record

High Street retailers suffer
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Yet more doom and gloom from the British high street which numbers show just trudged through its toughest 12 months yet recorded.


High street retailers had their worst year on record in 2019, with year-on-year sales figures actually falling for the first time since records began in 1995.

The annual release of figures, compiled jointly by the British Retail Consortium and financial firm KPMG, tracked a 0.1 per cent dip in retail revenue for the full year – driven in part by a significant downturn (of 0.9 per cent) during the usually busy run-up to Christmas.

Predictably meanwhile, the high street’s loss was very much the online retailers’ gain with remote sales up 2.6 per cent for November and December.

BRC chief Helen Dickinson said that a calamitous year for British retailers had also been signified by ebbing consumer demand, job losses, the shuttering of shops and now all-too-familiar company restructuring.

“2019 was the worst year on record and the first year to show an overall decline in retails,” she remarked. “Twice the UK faced the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, as well as political instability that concluded in a general election, further weakening demand for the festive period.”

The consortium also attributed social structural changes as to weakened retail performance: such as a shift away from house ownership in favour of renting, as well as people simply satisfied to own less stuff.

All in all, the report made for bleak reading for goods retailers – but for service providers recent data released by Barclaycard provided more than a little reason for optimism: with the credit card company tracking a marked swing in consumer spending towards the experience economy. In December alone, the company’s numbers showed a nearly 12 per cent gain on monthly pub transactions, whilst the purchase of cinema tickets was up by almost 20 per cent.

Still, that doesn’t change the fact that throughout the country, just over 12 per cent of high-street shops are currently unoccupied: a metric set to rise yet further as most sectors of the retail economy consolidate to survive.

“Retailers are centralising,” analyst Ronald Nyakairu of the Local Data Company told The Guardian last week. “Where they can have a city centre store that serves a whole metropolitan area, they will.”

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