The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has reported a 2.8% decline in retail sales volumes in the UK in 2023 compared to the previous year. This marks the lowest level since 2018 and represents the second consecutive year of annual sales decline. The ONS also noted a 3.2% fall in retail sales in December 2023, following a 1.4% increase in November. The decrease in December was the largest monthly drop since January 2021, impacted by Covid restrictions. Food stores experienced a significant decline, and department stores, clothing shops, and household goods retailers reported sluggish sales, partly due to earlier Black Friday promotions.
Heather Bovill, deputy director at ONS, highlighted that food store sales volumes fell by 3.1% in December, while non-food store sales volumes dropped by 3.9%, indicating a challenging period for the retail sector. Kris Hamer from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) noted that the decline in retail sales volumes in December concluded a challenging year for retailers, with sales volumes in 2023 below those seen in 2019.
The retail sector, contributing over £462 billion annually and employing around three million people in the UK, faces ongoing uncertainties, including the impact of inflation and consumer confidence. While retailers hope for a rebound in sales volumes in 2024, challenges related to the cost of living and shifting consumer behavior continue to shape the landscape.
(With Agency Inputs)