Outlook: Retail sales improve a little in January but still tough

March retail figures were negatively impacted due to the timing of Easter this year, said the British Retail Consortium (BRC).


In January, retail sales in the UK increased by 0.6% on a like-for-like basis, according to the British Retail Consortium/KPMG Sales Monitor. This compares to January 2017 when they had fallen by 0.6%. On a total basis, sales rose 1.4% in January, against a growth of 0.1% in January 2017. This is roughly in line with the 3-month and 12-month averages of 1.5% and 1.6% respectively. Over the three months to January, in-store sales of non-food items declined by 2.9% on a total basis and 3.6% on a like-for-like basis. On a 12-month basis, the total decline was 2.3%. But over the same period, food sales increased 2.9% on a like-for-like basis and 4.1% on a total basis. This remains above the 12-month total average growth of 3.7%, which is the highest since November 2012.


Yet non-food sales in the three months up to January decreased by 1.2% on a like-for-like basis and 0.6% on a total basis. This is below the 12-month total average decrease of 0.1%, which was the first 12-month average decrease since September 2009. Online sales of non-food products grew by 5.3% in January, against a growth of 8.0% in January 2017. This is below the 3-month and 12-month averages of 6.6% and 7.8% respectively.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “The persisting tough trading environment played out at the start of the year with a mixed set of trading updates and subsequent announcements. “Sales as well as as profits are seemingly harder to come by. Against this challenging back-drop, 2018 didn’t have a bad start during what is traditionally a lean month, with sales creeping up inline with the year’s average. “The figures paint the same old picture of divided fortunes for food and non-food sales. Rising food prices continued to inflate sales growth and absorb the lion’s share of shoppers’ squeezed budgets, while sales of non-food items struggled in January, dragging the 12-month average into negative territory for the first time in nine years.

“Clothing however, bucked the winter trend for the non-food categories. Some retailers were able to scale back promotions, having shifted more of their stock during the festive sales than last year, and saw encouraging early demand for new season ranges.”

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