17 Oct 2019

Summer turns to fall for UK retail sales

There was flat monthly growth in quantity bought from retailers, but with three-month on three-month comparisons showing a 0.6% rise in quantity purchased, it remains to be seen if October will provide a trick or treat for traders.

The key findings from the Office for National Statistics showed:

  • In the three months to September 2019, moderate growth in the quantity bought continued at 0.6% when compared with the previous three months, with all sectors within non-food stores reporting declines except “other stores”.
  • The quantity bought was flat (0.0%) in September 2019 when compared with the previous month, following a fall of 0.3% in August 2019.
  • The year-on-year growth rate shows that the quantity bought in September 2019 increased by 3.1%, with growth across all sectors except department stores and household goods.
  • Online sales as a proportion of all retailing was 19.1% in September 2019, compared with 19.5% reported in August 2019.

Phil Mullis, Partner and Head of Retail and Wholesale at one of the UK’s leading business advisory firms, Wilkins Kennedy, said: “It’s important that we take a step away from the long-term shadow that’s been cast over the high street by various administrations to remember that, in the grand scheme of things, growth is still occurring across the retail sector as a whole.

“Boohoo – the online fashion retailer – recently reported stellar half year results while Home Bargains also had strong full year figures; this perhaps reinforces the savvy nature of consumers who are keen for a bargain – perhaps with one eye on saving money to prepare for the uncertain consequences that Brexit may have on their own daily finances.

“Retailers are crying out for the government to turn their attention to reforming the business rates system as well – and while retail as a whole remains in growth – now is the time to revisit this and give retailers more cash in their own back pocket to invest in the future.

“Hays Travel has shown faith in the high street by purchasing more than 500 sites from Thomas Cook – and while this will have raised a lot of eyebrows, it is 500 less units that would have otherwise been empty, and provides a morale boost for other businesses in town centres – if shops are open then people should come – but again, a key driver in making this a long-term reality will be the reform of business rates.”

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