Retail Sales Over Past Year Weakest Since Records Began in 1995, Survey Shows

August 13, 2019

Retail sales saw the weakest average rise on record in the past year, a survey has shown, raising questions over one of the economy’s few bright spots.

The value of sales grew only 0.5 per cent per month on average in the 12 months to 27 July, the British Retail Consortium said on Tuesday. This is the slowest rise since the BRC started collecting records in 1995.

In July alone, sales ticked up 0.3 per cent from a year ago after falls in the previous two months.

“The UK may have had record temperatures in July, but retail sales were far from record-breaking at just 0.3 per cent growth,” said Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, which sponsors the survey.

He noted that online non-food sales, which have held up particularly well this year, increased by only 3.7 per cent last month – a “considerably” slower rise than in previous years.

“Another category which has historically benefitted from the good weather is grocery, but even here sales are lacklustre, which is a cause for concern,” Mr Martin said.

The BRC does not adjust its figures for inflation, which is running at 2 per cent according to the latest official data, covering June.

The survey tallies with another set of data released on Tuesday, showing that broader consumer spending was dragged down in July by a 0.9 per cent fall in spending on essentials such as food and petrol.

The data from Barclaycard – which sees almost half of Britain’s credit and debit card transactions – revealed that consumer spending rose only 1.7 per cent year-on-year, representing a decline when accounting for inflation. That followed similarly muted growth in May and June.