UK’s June retail sales the ‘worst on record’

By Deborah Williams for Retail Insight 

June 2019 UK retail sales have been the worst on record, with a 1.3% total basis decline, according to a report by the British Retail Consortium (BRC). June UK retail sales saw a 2.3% increase in 2018.

Covering the five weeks from 26 May to 29 June 2019, the report found that the decline brings the three month average into a decline of 0.1% and the 12 month average to an increase of 0.6%, the lowest since its records began in December 1995.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson OBE said: “June sales could not compete with last year’s scorching weather and World Cup, leading to the worst June on record. Sales of TVs, garden furniture and BBQs were all down, with fewer impulse purchases being made. Overall, the picture is bleak. Rising real wages have failed to translate into higher spending as ongoing Brexit uncertainty led consumers to put off non-essential purchases.

“Businesses and the public desperately need clarity on Britain’s future relationship with the EU. The continued risk of a No Deal Brexit is harming consumer confidence and forcing retailers to spend hundreds of millions of pounds putting in place mitigations – this represents time and resources that would be better spent improving customer experience and prices. It is vital that the next Prime Minister can find a solution that avoids a No Deal Brexit on 31st October, just before the busy Black Friday and Christmas periods.”

On a like-for-like basis, June UK retail sales decreased by 1.6% from June 2018. This is lower than the three month and 12 month averages of -0.4% and -0.1% respectively. The report stated that this represents the worst 12 month average since April 2012.

In-store sales of non-food items declined 4.3% on a total basis and 4.1% on a like-for-like basis, over the three months to June. This decline is lower than the 12 month total average decline of 2.8%.

Non-food UK retail sales declined by 2.1% on a total basis and 2% on a like-for-like basis, over the three-months to June. This is also lower than the 12 month total average decrease of 0.8%. The BRC said that this is the worst quarterly decline since February 2009.

KPMG UK head of retail Paul Martin says: “There are few places retailers can hide from the difficult trading conditions that have been hitting the industry for some time. June’s retail performance did little to ease that, with like-for-like sales falling 1.6% compared to last year.

“On the high street, consumers were eager to pull up a pew for the summer’s sporting events, with added interest in the furniture category. Otherwise, consumers largely turned a blind eye to offers in the physical retail space.”

Non-food online sales increased 4% in June 2019, against an increase of 8.5% in June 2018. The three month and 12 month average growths were 3.3% and 5% respectively. Non-food online penetration rate increased to 30.7% last month, from 28.5% in June 2018.

Martin adds: “With 4% online growth, shoppers were thankfully more engaged in this channel, making the most of the added convenience and continued aggressive pricing. Fashion performed particularly well thanks to end-of-season sales and upcoming holidays.

“Pressure on retailers continues to mount and is seemingly coming from all angles: economic, geo-political, environmental and behavioural. Consumer spend is only likely to fall further as things stand, and cost efficiency remains vital. The focus for most in the industry will be preservation and adaptation in order to see them through these tough times.”

Food sales experiences ‘above total average growth’ for June 2019 UK retail sales
Over the three months to June, food sales increased 2.4% on a total basis and 1.5% on a like-for-like basis – an increase above the 12 month total average growth of 2.2%.

IGD CEO Susan Barratt said: “A late start to the summer weather in June compared unfavourably with consistently drier and warmer conditions in 2018, so while year-on-year growth in food and grocery sales last month was small, it is still encouraging.

“If the recent pick up in temperatures is sustained, there’s hope for stronger figures in July. Shoppers feel slightly more positive at the moment, with the percentage expecting to become worse off financially in the year ahead falling from 32% in February to 27% today.”

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