UK’s 2023 Retail Sales Lowest in Five Years

December’s decrease was the largest monthly fall since January 2021, when Covid restrictions affected sales.

Retail sales volumes in the UK fell by 2.8 per cent in 2023 compared to a year earlier, marking the lowest level since 2018, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in its latest survey.

Annual sales fell for the second consecutive year and the longer-term expectations for retail sales remain subdued, Xinhua news agency quoted Heather Bovill, deputy director at ONS, as saying.

ONS also reported that retail sales fell by 3.2 per cent in December 2023, after rising by 1.4 pe rcent in November.

December’s decrease was the largest monthly fall since January 2021, when Covid restrictions affected sales.

“Food stores performed very poorly, with their steepest fall since May 2021 as early Christmas shopping led to slow December sales,” Bovill said.

“Department stores, clothing shops and household goods retailers also reported sluggish sales as consumers spent less on Christmas gifts, but had also purchased earlier during Black Friday promotions, to help spread the cost.”

According to the ONS, food store sales volumes fell by 3.1 per cent in December, after increasing 1.1 per cent in November, while non-food store sales volumes fell by 3.9 per cent in December, following a 2.7 per cent increase in November.

According to Kris Hamer from the British Retail Consortium (BRC), a drop in retail sales volumes in December capped a difficult year for retailers, with sales volumes across 2023 below those seen in 2019.

The retail sector accounts for over 462 billion pounds a year in spending and employs around three million people across the country, according to the BRC.

“Black Friday sales ate into Christmas spending, while the high cost of living meant some households had to cut back on festive gifting,” Hammer said.

“However, with inflation on a downward trend, and wages slowly rising, retailers hope that consumer confidence and sales volumes will bounce back in 2024,” he said.