UK 2020 retail sales worst ever, says BRC

12 Jan 2021

UK retail endured its worst yearly performance for sales growth ever in 2020, according to new data out on Tuesday.

Total sales declined by 0.3% over 2019, the largest year-on-year drop since the BRC-KMPG retail sales monitor was launched in 1995.

Non-food sales fell by 5% due to the closure of non-essential stores during local and national lockdowns, whilst there was a 25% drop in sales in physical non-food stores due to the widespread closures, according to chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), Helen Dickinson.

Despite a festive season spending boost last month, which saw all-time high levels of food and drink spending, they didn’t rescue the annual figures, Sky News reports.

Ms Dickinson commented: “Covid-19 has led to 2020 being the worst year on record for retail sales growth.

"Christmas offered little respite for physical non-food stores, as many shops were forced to shut during the peak trading period."
Overall retail sales rose 1.8% on the year before in December - and 4.8% on the previous month - as shoppers hiked their spending in the lead-up to Christmas.
In addition, online non-food sales increased 44.8% as people opted to buy Christmas presents online as many stores remained shuttered due to local restrictions.
Nevertheless, despite the so-called "dismal December" and disappointing annual performance, the non-food sector benefitted from a spending shift, with many activities prohibited due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, said of the figures: "In the most important month for the retail industry, there was some positive growth due to the ongoing shift of expenditure from other categories such as travel and leisure.
"Once again we saw big swings in the types of products being purchased and the channels used for shopping, with much of the growth taking place online where nearly half of all non-food purchases were made,” he added.
KPMG’s head of retail went on to warn that the third lockdown will worsen conditions for the High Street in general.
A report from the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) said last week that 2020 was the worst year for High Street job losses in over 25 years, as the coronavirus crisis accelerated the shift towards online shopping, BBC reports.

Almost 180,000 retail jobs were lost in 2020, up by almost 25% from 2019, the CRR said.