Retail sales fall by 0.6% in December
Despite hopes of a Christmas boost, retail sales fell in December according to the Office for National Statistics.
The volume of monthly retail sales fell by 0.6 per cent, making December the fifth consecutive month in which retail sales failed to increase.
Breaking down the fall in sales across different retail market segments, figures showed that food stores saw the one of the biggest decreases.
The volume of food sales fell by 1.3 per cent, the largest fall since December 2016.
Department stores also saw their sales decrease by 1.8 per cent compared to November with clothing stores also seeing a two per cent reduction.
This fall in sales puts further pressure on the High Street, with major UK retailer Mothercare announcing they would enter administration in November.
Fuel and household goods were the only sectors which saw an increase.
Commenting on these figures, the ONS said: “Anecdotal evidence from a number of stores stated that goods did not sell as well as expected.”
December’s poor performance reflects the problems faced by the retail sector more generally.
Last week, the British Retail Consortium announced that 2019 had been the worst year for retailers since 1995.
The growth in internet sales has only added further pressure. Compared to December 2018, internet sales increased by 5.6 per cent and online sales now constitute 19 per cent of all retailing, an increase of 0.4 per cent from November 2019.
In some respite for department stores, their online sales increased by 15.5 per cent from November, with online sales at household goods stores increasing by 13.7 per cent. These statistics demonstrate the increasing importance of online sales to support physical stores. Online sales now make up 16.8 of all retail sales conducted by department stores and 18.5 per cent of all clothing purchases.
Ed Monk, associate director for personal investing at Fidelity International, commented: “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.”