Christmas did not come early for retailers as figures show spending fell in the festive run-up with clothing stores seeing the sharpest drop

  • A rising backlash against fast fashion has affected clothes outlets
  • On a month-by-month basis, the amount spent at stores dropped 0.3 per cent
  • Only the fuel and non-store retailing sectors saw a rise in sales during the month 

Falling fashion shopping saw high street sales decline by 0.6 per cent in December.

Overall sales in the last three months of 2019 dropped by 1 per cent with non-store retailing and textile, clothing and footware stores experiencing the sharpest downturns, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS says footfall was impacted by the late timing of Black Friday, which meant that stores which heavily promoted the late November sales period were more affected by a loss in spending. 

PwC's Lisa Hooker says: 'December trading was always going to be a challenge for retailers'

PwC’s Lisa Hooker says: ‘December trading was always going to be a challenge for retailers’

Only the fuel and non-store retailing sectors saw a positive increase in sales during the month, although the latter registered a quarterly decline of 3.2 per cent.

PwC’s Lisa Hooker says: ‘December trading was always going to be a challenge for retailers, given the late timing and continued interest in Black Friday bringing forward sales to November. 

She also stated ‘wider political distractions and the wet weather’ hurt sales numbers, with Storm Elsa having a particularly adverse effect on commerce.

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In the three months to December, amount spent and quantity bought fell 0.9 per cent and 1 per cent respectively when compared with the previous three months.

On a month-by-month basis, the amount spent dropped 0.3 per cent and quantity bought was down 0.6 per cent, compared with increases of 1.5 per cent and 0.9 per cent respectively a year earlier.

Ed Monk, associate director for Personal Investing at Fidelity International, said last year was very gloomy for high retailers, which was reflected in the disappointing Christmas sales.

Yesterday, the Adam Smith Institute warned that current zoning laws, high rents and business rates, the rise of online shopping, shrinking footfall and the rise of out-of-town shopping centres have caused too many stores to close

Yesterday, the Adam Smith Institute warned that current zoning laws, high rents and business rates, the rise of online shopping, shrinking footfall and the rise of out-of-town shopping centres have caused too many stores to close

He declared that ‘2019 was miserable for retailers, topped off by a dismal Christmas trading season. Today’s figures will raise further questions around how robust the UK economy really is going into the year ahead. 

‘The picture we’re seeing from trading figures is that shoppers reined in spending in the months ahead of Christmas, with the December monthly figure showing there was no festive bounce to make up for lost ground.’

He thinks calls for government reforms of the high street will grow more loudly on the back of the disheartening results. 

Debenhams is just of the many department stores struggling with diminishing footfall

Debenhams is just of the many department stores struggling with diminishing footfall

Yesterday, the Adam Smith Institute warned that current zoning laws, high rents and business rates, the rise of online shopping, low footfall and the rise of out-of-town shopping centres have caused too many stores to close.

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Department store sales had a 1.8 per cent decline during December as expensive business rates and fewer shoppers on the high street continues to cause them major hurt. 

John Lewis and Debenhams are just two department stores struggling with diminishing business activity.

Clothing outlets had their sixth successive month of negative growth as a rising backlash to fast fashion has led many eco-conscious consumers to cut back. 

Despite cutbacks in trading, Capital Economics’ Thomas Pugh believes increasing certainty resulting from the Conservative Party’s landslide election victory could help the high street. 

He writes that it was ‘not a very merry Christmas for retailers. But the election and the removal of some uncertainty could represent a turning point for the economy. 

‘Indeed, there are signs that sentiment has already turned up. As a result, January might not be quite as bad.’ 

 

 

 

 



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