Christmas 2018 retail sales remained stagnant with 0% year-on-year growth, the worst for UK retail in a decade, according to the British Retail Consortium’s Like-For-Like Retail Sales Index.

Retail consumers spent less than in 2017, with 2018 seeing a -0.7% year-on-year change in like-for-like sales; Christmas 2017 retail sales were up 1.4% year-on-year. The report shows that while retailers were generous in discounting, this had no effect on consumers’ December spending.

More figures for last year reveal that the three-month average across all categories came in at a 0.5% change year-on-year, with food accumulating a 1.8% change year-on-year and non-food -0.4%. Profits for individual retailers such as Aldi rose. During its Christmas 2018 retail period, sales increased by 10% compared to Christmas 2017.

Online chat service provider founder and CEO  Andy Soloman said: “While many bricks and mortar retailers would have been hoping for a Christmas miracle and an uplift in consumer spend over December, this has failed to materialise leaving many in a financially precarious position. Of course, Brexit is curbing consumer appetite to an extent, but a far greater hurdle for the Great British high street is how to remain competitive against the value of online retail while being squeezed from the other end via a hike in business rates and an ever-increasing wage bill.”

KPMG UK head of retail Paul Martin predicts 2019 will be an even tougher year for UK Christmas retail. He said: “The first months of 2019 will unlikely hold much improvement. As many retailers report their festive trading performance, the list of winners and losers will become clear, but winning means more than just improving sales. Retailers have to protect their margins in order to deliver a profitable festive season.”

 Soloman added: “Now, more than ever, the retail sector needs to evaluate its consumer offering and how they integrate this with the changing face of the industry in order to create greater appeal, while streamlining operations and lowering overheads through the implementation of technology. Those that manage to do so will evolve and survive.”

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