UK high street sales tracker shows 2018 to be worst year on record

We know times are hard in UK retail, but accountancy and business advisory firm BDO’s latest High Street Sales Tracker (HSST) really summed it up Friday with its release saying “the UK high street is suffering the worst year on record.” And it added that “figures for September show UK in-store sales declining 2.7% year-on-year.”


UK stores were weak in September

And the bad news was slightly worse for the fashion sector as its sales were down by 2.8%.

The result marks the eighth negative month for in-store sales in a row and the 12th month since growth was higher than 1% for high street retailers.

So, with in-store sales declining in eight of the nine months this year to-date, was there any good news? Well, the “unwanted anniversary was tempered slightly by non-store [ie online] sales growth of 11.6% year-on-year,” BDO said. But even this was the third lowest monthly increase for non-store sales this year and the worst non-store September performance for at least eight years, according to the data.

As mentioned, fashion suffered a 2.8% drop and, along with lifestyle sales that fell 2.1%, it has recorded negative like-for-like sales in 17 of the last 20 weeks. But the worst performer in September was homewares, which dropped 4.4%, the eighth month of no growth.

Sophie Michael, Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO LLP, said: “2018 has been an incredibly challenging year for retailers and there are no signs of this abating. The ongoing decline in homeware sales and big-ticket items reflects the nervousness of the UK consumer, especially as uncertainty around Brexit lingers.

“Footfall on the high street has been dropping at an increasing pace, which will be of serious concern as retailers enter the crucial Christmas season. Somehow that decline in footfall needs to be reversed. Innovation will be key to creating an attractive shopping experience and lure the customer back in store whilst keeping a control on costs when margins are tight.”

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