Brexit uncertainty continues to slow sales
Written by Peter Walker
On a total basis, UK retail sales decreased by 0.5 per cent in March, against an increase of 2.3 per cent in March 2018, according to the latest British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG figures.
On a like-for-like basis, sales decreased by 1.1 per cent from March 2018, when they had increased 1.4 per cent from the preceding year.
The figures are negatively distorted by the timing of the run-up to Easter, which is in April this year compared to March in the previous year. This distortion was corrected by looking at the two-year average, since the Easter effect was reversed last year, boosting the sales growth in March 2018.
Over the three months to March, in-store sales of non-food items declined 1.5 per cent on a total basis and 1.7 per cent on a like-for-like basis, while food sales increased 0.2 per cent on a like-for-like basis and 1.3 per cent on a total basis.
Online sales of non-food products grew three per cent in March, against a growth of 7.9 per cent in March 2018. The two-year average growth was 5.4 per cent per annum, a slowdown from February’s 5.9 per cent.
The online penetration rate increased from 28.5 per cent in March 2018 to 29.9 per cent last month.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson commented that Brexit continues to feed the uncertainty among consumers. “For the sake of everyone, MPs must rally behind a plan of action that avoids no deal - and quickly - or it will be ordinary families who suffer as a result of higher prices and less choice on the shelves.”
Sue Richardson, UK retail director at KPMG, added: “Online sales may have performed better than the High Street, but the high proportion of sales occurring online actually nods towards the underlying issue of profit pressure.
“Retailers will be hoping for an end to this sustained uncertainty - it’s clearly not good for business - but times have already well and truly changed, and agility remains the best form of defence.”